Little by little, Chicago is beginning to get back to normal following this year’s lockdown. In fact, the city is way ahead of many others in the US in terms of its reopening schedule, and that is thanks to the creativity which many have shown alongside its residents who, by in large, have followed health protocols and social distancing measures.
Despite our report on the Lollapalooza executive chalking off live music concerts until 2022, the city’s Constellation Venue has announced in-person concerts. This follows the very first venue opening up for live jazz as the city entered phase 4 of the reopening plan. Naturally, safety measures will be tight, but this is great news for residents.
Watching and Learning
Constellation’s owner Mike Reed has spoken about the lessons that they have learned from other venues in terms of new guidelines.
We covered both stories of Soldier Field and Navy Pier opening back up for drive-in movies, both of which are planning a series of concerts for the fall. We also reported on exactly how Soldier Field has become the perfect drive-in location. The lessons from how these venues have reopened successfully will certainly help them likes Constellation follow suit.
As well as owning Constellation, Reed is also a key member of a local industry group which helped advise the city in recent months on how to reopen safely. Despite this, Reed didn’t anticipate that the city would give the go-ahead:
“I didn’t really think that we were going to be reopening this year, because I didn’t think that [the city would] allow it.”
It was a big moment when cellist Helen Money took the stage on Friday 7th August, and not just for Reed and the concert-goers. This first of many in-person concerts at the bar marks the beginning of the end of lockdown for the city, and an indication that a new normal is achievable. When Dead and Company played at Wrigley Field, as covered here, it was an open-air space, as indoor venues pose health challenges.
Safety will of course be of paramount importance for the show and the rules are relatively straight forward for all in-person concerts. The venue must not have more than 50 people in attendance, with assigned seating to separate the crowd. The bar will be closed, people will be 6 feet apart and face masks must be worn at all times.
Reed spoke about how much of the onus will be on what the artist is comfortable with a reduced audience and any additional rules. The venue is still looking into ways by which they will be able to sell artist merchandise. Merchandise is an important money maker for local artists, so ensuring that sales are possible will be critical in order to compensate for fewer guests.
Reed spoke further to Time Out magazine around safety concerns for in-person concerts:
“There’s a certain amount of risk in everything we do, of course. Putting on concerts is a very risky proposition. Living in this time period, anything you do, going to the park, going to the store,”
Understanding that it will be a long time before in-person concerts are back to what they once were, the venue is also trying experiment with other innovative ideas.
Reed, inspired by Amsterdam jazz club Bimhuis is looking to put on virtual concerts for web users, broadcasted live from the club.
Using high quality streaming and a new robotic camera system, this could be great for both fans and artists. “People have come to the point where they’re either donating or paying the paywall in this time period, so I don’t see that going away because it’s opened up a new revenue stream for artists,” stated Reed.
That said, everyone involved is trying to make sure the events are going as smoothly as possible. If there is evidence that rules are not being followed, then the company risks being shut down temporarily again. This means both venues and those going to in-person concerts should be considerate and follow all health protocols in place. And then everyone will have a nicer and more enjoyable fall season.