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It’s official—concerts have finally returned. Yes, against all odds, live music is coming back in the fall with new festival announcements popping up what seems like every day. Summerfest is back this September. So is the Governors Ball. The 20th anniversary of Bonnaroo will play to a Labor Day crowd, too. But as U.S. vaccination efforts ramp up, and more people feel comfortable congregating at big-time events like these, undoubtedly the way you rock out at your next concert will be different than you did pre-Covid.
With shows canceled en masse last year, and nowhere else to perform, everyone from amateur talent to big-name idols shifted gears to livestreaming through the pandemic. Virtual concerts became the norm, and the music industry had to get remarkably creative overnight: there were elaborate, high-budget filmed concerts like BTS’ Bang Bang Con, animated 3D concert streams though Wave, and even events in video games like Fortnite and Roblox from the likes of Lil Nas X and Travis Scott.
Shows like these have certainly helped keep the industry afloat, but even if you’ve shelled out any money to watch your favorite acts perform across your computer screen in the past year, it’s no doubt that both you, and your favorite artists, are itching to get back to live performances. There’s nothing quite like the magical experience of being in a crowd, screaming the lyrics together, and feeling like part of a community. But it’s probably been a while for most of us, so here’s what you need to know.
Concert Guide: Live Music and Festivals During Covid
Due to Covid-19 safety concerns, many festival organizers have released statements that they will be working closely with local officials, following all state and federal guidelines as mandated during the time of event. The CDC, meanwhile, issued new Covid-19 guidelines for vaccinated individuals recently, most notably that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask indoors or outdoors, “except in certain crowded settings and venues.”
Several festivals plan to operate at lowered capacity anyways (Florida’s Mile 0 Fest was at 75 percent, some might go lower). There may also be restrictions on food vendors, drinking, and after parties to stop crowds from congregating too much (which puts stage dives and mosh pits on hold for the time being, too).
Ticketmaster got in hot water recently after considering a plan requiring fans to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to attend live events. While they ultimately said they didn’t have the power set those kinds of entry requirements, that doesn’t mean it’s not happening at all—a summer concert series was recently announced in Chicago for fully-vaccinated residents only, and Lollapalooza will officially require proof of full vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test for each day of attendance. You soon might have to register your vaccination status online, or show a negative test to get into other stadiums, concerts, and venues, too.
So what does that mean for you, as a fan? Essentially, promoters and venders are operating in a grey area right now—they want to ensure safety and cleanliness, but federal guidelines are changing all the time. It’s up to the venues now to enforce masking policies, or rely on the honor system without being sure of how many people are actually vaccinated at any given event. Bonnaroo, for example, states in their 2021 FAQ that you “voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19” if you attend.
That may sound scary, but know that most festivals will be outside (or have moved outside), and they still have to follow state and local laws. Mask usage and social distancing might even still be required by attendees and staff, or at least highly encouraged for the time being.
What to Bring to a Concert
Now more than ever, attending your favorite concerts requires some serious planning and packing so that you can stay safe, and maximize your festival experience. We’ve rounded up some of the best accessories—from a breathable outdoor mask and disinfecting body wipes, to a very essential portable cellphone charger. Some things may be obvious (earplugs, anyone?), while other items may be necessary now as concerts adjust to Covid-19. But let us take care of the details, so you focus on the important stuff—getting back to enjoying the music.
1. A Secure Card Case, Lanyard, or Small Clutch
Card holders and lanyards are an efficient and safe way to store your ID and a copy of your ticket, though most will undoubtedly be verified online. It’s a good place to keep your vaccine card too, if you do need to show it. You shouldn’t forget to bring your wallet, obviously, but getting a specific holder can be a more stylish, and undoubtedly better than just tossing your most important info in your pockets to potentially slip out. We like this Nysben Card Case, with its multiple exterior card slots and large interior leather pouch (bonus: it converts into a lanyard!).
Want to go basic? Nike’s I.D. Badge Lanyard has a plastic holder that clips on and off for easy access. It’s a simple and effective way to keep all your cards, ID and documents close to your chest – literally.
2. An Outdoor Face Mask
At one of the first major music festivals in the U.S. to come back, fans at Mile 0 Fest reportedly didn’t always follow social distancing and mask protocols. Still, many attendees remained a reasonable distance from each other, and so too should you at your next festival. Even if you’re vaccinated, we still suggest you pick up a good, rugged face covering that can hold up to standing outdoors in hot and humid weather for hours.
One of our favorite reusable face masks is this ProSport Nanotec mask from BlueBear. It stands out from other masks because it includes a built-in slot for a filter, adding extra protection. The mask itself is lightweight and breathable, making it super gentle if you’re going to be showing up for entire weekend-long events.
3. A Clear Backpack
Need a backpack? We like the look of this everyday travel backpack, which is both a cult favorite, and a festival-friendly size (if you’re wondering the standard dimensions are, it’s usually anything below 20 x 15 x 9, but always check the venue first). Security requires a see-through bag to get through? We like this clear rucksack-style bag from Amazon. It’s made from a durable plastic material and reinforced with military-grade nylon that’s built to last you the whole weekend. It’s bigger than most mini backpacks for festivals too, with built-in pockets that can hold everything from headphones, to sunscreen and snacks, and even a whole laptop. You’ll be almost too prepared.
4. A Fanny Pack or Waist Pack
Some venues now have a limit on the types—and sizes—of bags you can bring in, so in that case it’s best to go with a belted bag (like a waist bag or fanny pack) over a backpack that might get you turned away. We’ve covered our favorite fanny packs for festival season before, but when it comes to holding all the smaller essentials, there’s nothing better than Waterfly’s versatile fanny pack. The main compartment and two small front compartments are enough to keep your wallet, ID, lip balm, chargers and more.
5. A Foldable Chair
Festivals might be shifting their hosting grounds this year, such as the Governors Ball now moving to the Citi Field complex, as opposed to Randalls Island. But you’ll want a place to sit that’s not on the ground of a parking lot, or outdoors on the dusty ground. We prefer a lightweight, portable design that you can pick up quickly and move for a better view, or to get an appropriate six feet away from the crowd, like the Helinox Incline Festival Chair.
6. Sanitizing Wipes
While you might expect hand-sanitizing stations to be scattered around festivals now, don’t expect there to be running water and soap on-hand. Even if you bring a bottle of hand sanitizer, it might get thrown away by security thinking you’re trying to pull a fast one with smuggling booze, like they did at a recent fully-vaccinated rave in the UK. To keep germs and viruses at bay, bring along some body wipes that can double as disinfecting wipes, like these Sanitizing Lavender Wipes by Public Goods that kill 99% of the most common germs.
This set gets you a 30-pack of wipes, that effectively wipe out bacteria and germs, while still being gentle on the skin.
7. A Pack of Earplugs
Protecting your immunity is important, but you also need to take care of your ear health too. It is still a concert after all, and you want to rock out to your favorite music without hearing that ringing in your ear for days afterwards. We have a list of the best earplugs for concerts and festivals here, if you don’t know which to choose. But consider springing for these high-fidelity earplugs from Vibes, which are designed with live music in mind.
8. A Portable Phone Charger
Having a juice pack, or one of our top portable chargers, is a great way to ensure you won’t run out of battery life while in the middle of taking concert photos or trying to call your friends. Charging stations at festivals are either crowded, or few and far between, so we recommend Mophie for their battery charging cases. They’re some of the most reliable out there, since they’re strapped to your phone at all times, and it will prevent the panic moment of forgetting your charging cable at home.
9. A Water Bottle
Most festivals limit what kind of drinkware you can bring in—banning cans, glass, and any bottle over one liter. When you enter, your bottle will probably need to be empty anyways, but go with a lightweight bottle, like the Hydro Flask 21 ounce Standard Mouth Lightweight Trail Series. It won’t feel heavy in your backpack, since it’s 25% lighter than other bottles of its size, and the superb insulated steel design will mean your water will stay cool and refreshing under the hot sun.
10. A Point and Shoot Camera
These festival memories are ones that will hopefully last a lifetime, especially if you choose to photos or video of the artists performing live. Nowadays, venues are pretty particular with what kind of cameras they’ll let you take in, so bottom line—nothing “professional”, with a removable lens, or a camera with a standard lens longer than two inches. Point-and-shoot cameras are a great alternative to the grainy, blurred out zoom pictures you might get from your iPhone, and we really like the accessibility and 4K quality of the Panasonic Lumix LX10.