Is the return to the music festival already in trouble?
Earlier this month, we covered the return of one of America’s largest music festivals – the Day Trip Festival in San Bernadino, CA. In a post-vaccination Southern California, the July 4 weekend event went very well and marked the reopening of future music festivals across the country.
But is that return now in trouble? In the Netherlands, some confusing data is now emerging after the Verknipt Festival, an event held earlier this month in the Dutch city of Utrecht. According to information from Utrecht officials and local reports, more than 1,000 attendees at that festival contracted COVID-19, even though it was carefully structured as a safe event for COVID.
Verknipt, which ran around the same time as the day trip, required all attendees to show proof of a COVID vaccine or negative test.
That would apparently create an airtight event, which makes it surprising that so many attendees subsequently contract the virus. So what happened?
One thing that needs to be emphasized is that it is unclear if those attendees contracted the virus on Verknipt. Some may have gotten COVID after the festival, or from a festival-related party or event, where entry requirements may have been more lax. “We cannot say that all these people were infected at the festival itself,” said Lennart van Trigt, a member of the Utrecht health board. “It is also possible that they were infected while traveling to the festival or in the evening before going to the festival or having an after party.”
There is also the possibility that attendees will contract COVID before showing up to the festival. One problem, according to the Trigt, was that ticket holders were only required to show a negative test administered within the last 40 hours. “In 40 hours people can do a lot of things like visit friends and go to bars and clubs,” Trigt said.
So what does this mean for the return of music festivals and live events, for that matter?
We have already seen some disappointing cancellations. Perhaps Foo Fighters tops the list: After performing a concert at Madison Square Garden packed with just vaccinated guests, the group was forced to cancel a follow-up concert in Los Angeles because someone at Foo Fighter’s camp contracted COVID.
Elsewhere, Tomorrowland Belgium was forced to scrap its mega-event of more than 400,000 due to COVID-19 concerns. And earlier this week, Australia’s BigSound was forced to cancel as well.
Meanwhile, the Delta variant is starting to spread across the United States, which could turn a roaring comeback into a kitty retreat. Earlier, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino pointed to a complete makeover in the US, with more gradual returns in Europe and Asia.
But given the instability of the current COVID landscape, including the surprising results at Verknipt, that return could be delayed by a few months.