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Live music slowly returns to Europe

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By KAREN BRADBURY | Stars and Stripes | Published: May 24, 2021

On May 13, a live audience of 4,000 gathered in the O2 Arena in London to watch the BRIT Awards, the British Phonographic Industry's annual awards show for popular music close in spirit to the US’s Grammy Awards. London’s first indoor live music event in over a year was staged as part of the British government’s pilot scheme to determine how to safely hold large-scale events in closed environments without the need for social distancing.

Concerts in Barcelona and Amsterdam, along with a rave in Liverpool, are among other events recently staged in cooperation with governmental health authorities, event organizers and other key actors in order to determine how rapid testing and various hygiene and distancing concepts might allow festivals and similar events to be organized going forward.

Europe’s glitzy and garish, often-mocked but much beloved musical competition is also returning to the scene following its cancellation in 2020. The Ahoy Stadium in Rotterdam, Netherlands will play host to the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest on May 22. The scaled-down event will take place in front of a live audience of 3,500, which represents some 20% of the venue’s capacity. All viewers will be required to present a negative Coronavirus test before entering. Meanwhile, performers and their delegations have been staying in their so-called “bubbles,” only leaving hotels for rehearsals, program-related activities and socially distanced outdoor exercise. In the event of an act testing positive, a back-up recording of its performance will stand in. TV viewers, whose numbers reached some 182 million in 2019, can tune in at 9 p.m. European Central time to watch the kitschy contest.

Although continuing restrictions in crossing Europe’s internal borders might well end up putting the brakes to any travel abroad to catch a festival or one-off gig, it’s encouraging to observe the tentative comeback of live music. Here's a look at some other events that remain scheduled to go ahead, contingent, of course, upon what might transpire with COVID-19 in the weeks and months to come.

England

Last year’s summer festival season was a non-starter, but the outlook for 2021 is slightly greener, thanks to high vaccine uptake and the availability of mass testing. While the country’s most famous festival, Glastonbury, has been canceled, a handful of events scheduled for later in the summer remain on the docket for now. As many of the country’s largest festivals tend to sell out in a flash, hopeful concert-goers might wish to turn their sights to smaller events. Family-friendly festivals taking place in the Midlands include the Bigfoot Festival in Alcester on June 18-20 (top acts include Primal Scream, Fat White Family, Hot Chip Megamix, Baxter Dury and Dinosaur Pile-Up), Let’s Rock Shrewsbury in Shrewsbury on July 17 (Adam Ant, Howard Jones, Go West, Nik Kershaw, others) and Splendour in Nottingham on July 24 (Richard Ashcroft, Supergrass, Rick Astley, The Vamps, Belinda Carlisle, others). 

Germany

In the summer of 2020, large festivals were canceled across the board, and the news hasn’t been much better for those scheduled in 2021, with Rock am Ring, Rock im Park, Hurricane, Southside and countless others pushed back for another year, with a brave few hoping to press forward with early autumn dates. The prospects are much better for small-scale events in which all visitors sit in preassigned spaces and provide their contact details.

Strandkorb Open Air is a series of open-air concerts making clever use of the popular two-seater wicker chair with a striped awning so popular along Germany’s seacoast. These summery seats, properly distanced from one another, will be set up in outdoor arenas in Augsburg, Cham, Hamburg, Mönchengladbach, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Rosenheim, St. Wendel, Zweibrücken and a handful of other cities. Up to 3200 spectators can be accommodated thanks to a hygiene concept including zoned spaces, one-way streets and delivery service for food and drinks. Acts on stage include Alice Merton, Element of Crime, God Save the Queen, Fury in the Slaughterhouse, Smokie, Spider Murphy Gang and other predominantly German acts.
Online: strandkorb-openair.de

Picknick Konzerte, or picnic concerts, mark a return to a concept successfully launched last summer. This happy marriage between open-air concerts and al fresco dining incorporates safety measures such as masking while moving about, social distancing between groups and bringing one’s own drinks, snacks and blankets. Cities staging these concerts include Berlin, Cologne, Dresden, Erfurt, Hamburg, Ladenburg, Paderborn, Rostock and Wiesbaden. Again, acts are overwhelmingly German.
Online: picknick-konzerte.de

Those in Kaiserslautern can look forward to a series of small concerts to be held in the garden of the Kammgarn concert venue between June 17 and Sept. 11. The events, held on Thursdays through Saturdays, can be accommodated in the casino in the event of bad weather. Entrance tickets for most events will range between 6 and 18 euros.
Online: tinyurl.com/97e6brw

Munich is daring to move forth with a festival. The city's Olympiapark and Olympiastadion will serve as the venue for the Superbloom Festival Sept. 4-5. Acts on stage include Post Malone, David Guetta, DJ Snake, The Pussycat Dolls, Rita Ora, Tyga and others. The festival is billed as family-friendly.
Online: superbloom.de