Ubbi Dubbi is Set To Return- Or Is It?
April 24-25 marks the return of major music festivals with Ubbi Dubbi in Ennis, TX. The festival will open at full capacity, and fans and industry professionals are wondering: Is it too soon for music festivals to make a come back?
I recently wrote about the kinds of shows currently available here in Florida and the necessity of art. My takeaway is that music fans have differing levels of comfort with crowds, and attending indoor venues comes with some inherent risks. That said, humanity needs community and art. For some of us, our usual discomfort with crowds has become real anxiety about personal and public health. We can’t control others, nor do we want an authoritarian event staff, so that leaves us with a grab-bag of strategies for future music events.
Ubbi Dubbi has chosen a full-on festival experience with only a “mask-up” requirement. Their main webpage lists nothing about COVID, but if you dig deeper you will see they have partnered with CLEAR and local health partners “in reducing COVID risks”. What this means is anyone’s guess, but it’s clear that the information isn’t exactly top-of-mind for fans who want to visit Texas this April. Recent European research is finding that indoor concerts, those with proper ventilation, social distancing, and hygiene requirements, have a very low risk of infection. Hopefully, this information proves even more true outdoors.
Texas and Covid
Texas has about 18,000 new cases and 200 deaths a day due to COVID. Ubbi Dubbi goers likely know the numbers and have assessed their own risk. I only post this information here because it’s relevant to consider before buying a ticket. Texas is at about 9,000 cases per 100,000 people. The state is no longer in the top ten most infectious list, yet with a population of 30 million, there is still a real chance of getting sick and passing on the virus to vulnerable populations. Governor Abbot recently lifted the state’s mask mandate and is allowing 100% capacity at businesses due to the falling hospitalization and contraction rates, and time will tell if this is a wise choice.
Insomniac promises an EDC Vegas update soon, and just two weeks ago CEO Pasquale Rotella confirmed EDC’s May date and said “nothing has changed”. Because 2020 tickets were already sold and sold out, options are limited. Either Insomniac divides EDC into separate festivals to lower capacity, or they operate at regular capacity and enforce masks and other measures. In my experience, social distancing at shows isn’t a real possibility. Even if the ground is carefully marked and security is out in force, people are going to dance, talk, eat, drink and be merry. Otherwise, why attend? I think the May date will run and special measures and requirements will be announced shortly.
In Florida, another state with loosening restrictions and a declining infection rate, Insomniac has already sold out “ABDUCTION”. This is a new downtown parking lot fest with big artists like Diplo and Tchami on the roster. Soon after, Insomniac also announced “RAVE”, a new Florida event with details coming soon. ABDUCTION is a ‘masks required’ outdoor event, and special measures include canned drinks and limited capacities. The VIP package, in essence, provides more space and private restrooms. This seems to be the route Insomniac is experimenting with, and early sales are already proving it a successful strategy.
Other fests have now been announced, including III Points at the end of April in Miami, and Summer Camp Music Fest in Illinois in August. Notable here are artists who have taken time off of touring due to COVID, like Griz. In a recent IG story, Griz admitted he’s apprehensive about jumping into live shows, but he has a ton of new music coming out and wants to get back to it. Griz has been critical of artists doing ‘regular shows’ during the pandemic, but it seems the good news on vaccination rates and ticket sales has changed his mind. Maybe fans are feeling the same way!
One worrying element of the current strategies is that more money means more safety. It’s troubling because impoverished people in the US are more likely to contract and become seriously ill from COVID. It’s also more difficult for poorer people to get vaccinated. If art is an escape, what does it mean if some of us can truly be free while others are only as free as their wallet allows? This brings up an important question: What if a festival only allows vaccinated crowds? I think most of us would see this kind of requirement as a great benefit but also a marker of privilege. Most people are currently ineligible to be vaccinated. Even those of us working in essential frontline jobs are still excluded in most states. If states open vaccine appointments to everyone, this might be less of an issue, but there’s still the question of personal choice. What if I can’t get a vaccine for other reasons? What if I don’t want one? Testing attendees seems like a fair alternative, but that’s asking event companies to act as medical offices, and there’s something strange in that too. Finally, what if fests triple in cost? Looking at the Summer Camp tickets, I see this worrying trend of rising ticket prices already pricing me out, and I wonder who else is feeling exclusion.
‘To enter this fest, please provide saliva analysis. To hear this music, prove you’re well-off enough. To enjoy our community, submit to these tests.’ Sounds like an alien abduction, indeed.
Rules are essential for protecting community, but at some point, privacy is lost and so is comfort. If festivals are supposed to be a bastion of freedom, it may be a few seasons before we can all move together and feel carefree again. Until then, people are finding a way to party, and at what cost.
In the meantime- take our survey about festivals returning! We want to hear your thoughts on how to make them safe!