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Vax for Venues? 

Live music venues face shifting health and safety norms for what to demand of their patrons.

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THE STATE ROOM PRESENTS
  • The State Room Presents

If this question isn't on your mind already, it will be soon: Do you have to be vaccinated to go out to a show? In late spring and part of the summer, things almost felt like they were getting back to normal—venues lifted mask-mandates, and capacity caps and distancing measures fell away. But with Delta sweeping across the nation, and with many musicians already out on the road touring to make up for lost time, everyone's been faced with hard decisions about how to proceed with live music, if at all.

Nonetheless, venues and festivals and musicians are all falling in line, however haphazardly. That includes local entities, and as Ben Anderson of the new local music event Park City Song Summit notes, "It wasn't on our radar that we'd have to do a complete 180-degree pivot from where we were to where we are, but we're doing it and we're trying it, doing anything we can to not cancel it."

PCSS, which launches Sep. 8 - 12, has quickly adopted some of the strictest rules of any festival or venue in their Delta-inspired restructuring. Formerly planned to take place at venues up and down Main Street in Park City and at Deer Valley, their shows will now be featured at an expensive second stage they're building at Deer Valley, shifting everything outdoors.

Artists at PCSS will be asked to show proof of vaccination or to provide a negative PCR test 48 hours before attending the Summit, and then get tested 72 hours later. All staff at the event will also be vaccinated, and required to mask indoors and outdoors over the four days of the event (five if you count the soft kick-off on Wednesday, Sept. 8). As for attendees, proof of vaccination is required, full stop. Other safety measures include available rapid tests, six-foot restrictions at pinch points, and masks required indoors/encouraged outdoors. And despite the loss of indoor venue spaces, Anderson is honoring all tickets, so that even people who bought, for example, a single $35 ticket to a lab can have access to a whole day at Deer Valley, to see up to eight concerts on the new dual stages.

While Anderson admits that introducing new restrictions has resulted in some refunds and criticism, the feedback has mostly been positive and appreciative. "My spirit is unwavering, that this is a great event and I believe I'm doing the right thing," he says. "I'd rather have people unhappy at me for trying to keep people safe than have people unhappy at me for not being as responsible as we possibly could."

Considering the fact that other festivals and venues in Utah aren't all enacting similar strict protocols (yet), it may seem strange that PCSS is. But the fear of cancelation is real. Another new fest due to debut in late August, Hardscrabble Music Festival in Helper, canceled at the last minute, despite plans to require vaccination to attend.

When it comes to venues that need a constant stream of artists to make ends meet, it makes even more sense to play things super-safe. That's what The State Room and The Commonwealth Room are both doing, and they're the only local venues now requiring proof of vaccination (physical or digital copy) or a negative PCR test to attend their shows—a rule that also applies to staff and artists. They're refunding tickets for anyone who can't abide.

Metro Music Hall, The Urban Lounge and Kilby Court aren't requiring vaccination currently, but masks are required again. As for S&S affiliates Ogden Twilight and SLC Twilight, S&S's Nic Smith says that since both are outdoor shows, they don't have a vaccine requirement. "If an artist requests proof of vaccination or negative covid test within 72 hours for entry, we are accommodating that," Smith says. "There is a chance that we might change the rules for the Twilight events depending on new information or artist preference."

With entertainment giants AEG and Live Nation (the latter owns The Depot and USANA Amphitheatre) recently announcing vaccine requirements for their venues starting in October, though, stricter protocols for everyone may soon be a norm. As for large locals like Abravanel Hall, Eccles Theater and the Vivint Arena, not much has changed, but masks are still recommended; for similar places like the Maverick Center, masks never stopped being required.

Some venues can't control what they do. Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Series is, by virtue of being located at the University of Utah, required to follow state requirements, which are now in flux due to the full approval of the Pfizer COVID vaccine. The previously-in-place state requirements already cost them one show, when Counting Crows canceled because Red Butte couldn't accommodate their COVID-19 protocols.

It only follows that such artists will, in the future, choose to tour at other venues that can accommodate, and there will be more and more of those. As Ben Anderson says astutely of his own event's new direction, "The world is changing. I don't think that we're standing alone on an island here—I think that we're at the front of where everyone's going to end up before too long. If you're vaccinated, your world is a lot larger. If you're unvaccinated, your world is going to be a lot smaller."

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About The Author

Erin Moore

Erin Moore

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

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