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A Safe and Funky Bet 

Software company ReturnSafe offers COVID protocols for upcoming EDM event.

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DAVID ARELLANO _ DAAR CREATIVE
  • David Arellano _ DAAR Creative

Memorial Day weekend is approaching at lightning speed. With it comes a large EDM event returning to Salt Lake City's dance music scene that most weren't expecting to see. V2 Presents—the leading electronic dance music event promoter in Utah and a pillar of that scene—thinks it's time. In fact, they're confident, and it's thanks, in part, to their working with the Austin, Texas-based company ReturnSafe, a self-styled holistic software solution for infectious-disease management that's helping large events become a reality once again.

The Memorial weekend event in question is the Get Funky Festival, a two-night gathering over May 28 and 29 out in the salty open air of The Great Saltair, on the southern shores of the Great Salt Lake. It's also the traditional home of many of V2's EDM events. The fest's house-music focus will include headliners Chris Lake and Tchami, plus support from Wax Motif, Shiba San, Jack Beats, Destructo, Drezo and others.

"As COVID cases have started to trend downward and vaccines have become more widely available, we started looking into doing events just about a month ago," said V2 Presents spokesman Ian Hiscock. "We knew there was some streaming technology, some apps that have come to rise over the last year to help companies go back safely."

"We found ReturnSafe," Hiscock continues, "and what made us confident to approach them and work with them is just their past—the caliber of past events they've done." He's talking about ReturnSafe helping Sesame Street to continue production and the San Antonio Spurs to begin playing at the AT&T Center again.

Hiscock said they chose ReturnSafe over other screening technologies because of their illustrious track record. Plus, he said, "We've really seen the other types of community events start to come back—Jazz games and other things like that—and we thought that it was time that we could confidently and safely move forward with our limited capacity and outdoor events."

ReturnSafe is one among a sizable chunk of freshly minted tech companies that have spent the pandemic perfecting and peddling their protocols—often via apps—that are meant to track and halt COVID spread in workplaces, schools and other public spaces. CEO Jikku Venkat explains that ReturnSafe features rigorous logging of all contact by a client's personnel, so there's a paper trail in the event of someone getting infected (bypassing the fallible human memory) as well as screening, test tracing, isolation, quarantine status and even immunization records. Venkat says that, so far, no clients have requested that last feature, though the option remains open, especially as more people gain full vaccination status. The centrality of keeping all this info on the app, though, is what makes it easier to contact and screen individuals who report information that indicates they may be a vector.

As to why he decided to tackle something as complicated as curbing the infectiousness of a highly infectious virus, Venkat explains that around the time he and his co-founder heard from family about how early COVID-19 outbreaks were being handled in Singapore (wonderfully, Venkat reports), they were already working on a free, open contact-tracing project.

"We quickly realized within a couple of months that in order for that open project to become effective, we would need the cooperation of public health officials and local and state governments here in the United States," he said. "And to be honest with you, by the time that the pandemic was taking off in Manhattan ... they were just too busy and too caught up, and we had to just hit the pause button and say, 'We are better off going to the private sector.'"

So, they jumped first into long-term care and nursing homes, helping them isolate and quarantine their residents. From there, they've expanded, and Venkat sees it continuing that way. The past month has yielded inquiries from many large-scale events coordinators, including venues as large as the Brooklyn Center in New York.

"[When] you're talking about thousands of people coming back to these very large events, you need a more—what we like to call—systematic and scalable process," he said. "If your tracing system is scalable, [then] if someone tested positive, you get immediate reports automatically in the system, which alerts an event administrator, and then there's a process for how to work flow around it."

So, attendees of Get Funky can also look forward to getting screened through ReturnSafe—there will even be rapid tests available on-site for any fever-bearing ticket holders. Hiscock believes that the safety protocols will go down well.

"We really try to promote this honor system in our community—try to promote people looking out for each other," Hiscock explains. "We took the extra step to hire a new team of safety volunteers who are just going to walk around and give people friendly reminders and encouragements [about masks]. That just goes back to what our whole culture is about in the first place, and what EDM is about in the first place: respecting each other and respecting each other's space, especially right now."

If this sounds like the kind of crowd you could get funky with, you can visit v2presents.com for tickets, and ReturnSafe.com for more info on their protocols.

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Erin Moore

Erin Moore

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Erin Moore is City Weekly's music editor. Email tips to: music@cityweekly.net.

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