BY TREVOR PFEIFER
With the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Ellis county, many musicians and venues have been hesitant to play live music. The looming risk of COVID and the unpredictability of audience turnout create a strange, challenging environment for hosting safe events. Regardless, some local scene members and university students are up to the task.
Jammin’ Across Campus is a social function led by Student Engagement that took place on Thursday and Friday of last week. Featuring local acts DoC, Primair, Lam, and Nathan Dozier, the event offered a safe way to see live music during the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean it was easy.
Primair frontman Bryson Thomas (guitar, vocals) said there were still challenges to playing live music during a pandemic.
“I’ve been reluctant to play lately, but this seemed safe…. [W]e have to be extremely careful. These shows have to be outside with enough space to distance properly,” Thomas said. “It’s going to take more planning than our usual bar shows, but it’s worth it. I miss moshing as much as everyone else, but it’s not a good look right now.”
Social distancing and proper mask usage are just a few of the precautions necessary in order to keep events safe. Other steps include securing outdoor venues, keeping attendance numbers low, and only using personal gear when it comes to equipment like microphones. The combination of all these factors makes for a very different experience indeed.
One student in attendance described the oddities of going to a concert with COVID safety measures in place.
“It’s definitely weird. Most people wore masks and kept to themselves, so everyone was kind of just minding their own business and watching on their own,” said event attendee, Emma Gardner. “It’s a very different experience than usual.”
The challenge of creating safe but entertaining show environments for musicians and fans alike has caused a long lasting drought in the local music scene, and it has certainly taken a toll on some local bands.
Friday was Primair’s first live appearance since before COVID-19 restrictions initially went into effect in March. Other local bands have also been affected by coronavirus concerns. Dangerously Biased was forced to cancel their EP release show earlier this year due to COVID-19. Most bands have stopped playing live entirely, unsure of what to expect moving forward.
Some musicians like Thomas, however, try to see the opportunities within the circumstances.
“I’ve been trying to record and write more music instead of focusing on what I can’t do,” Thomas said. “I’m working on the first Primair record now, and I don’t think I would have started it if I didn’t have all this time to myself…. To not write and experiment during this time seems like a waste.”
Regarding the possibility of playing more shows in the foreseeable future, Thomas was wary.
“Not at this time. I guess we’re seeing how this works out to plan,” he said. “The COVID situation is constantly changing, and planning too far ahead can lead to disappointment.”