Live Concerts in Fall of 2020

While “touring” in the traditional sense is still off the table, some artists are making do with converted outdoor event spaces. The Christian band the Newsboys announced an outdoor amphitheater and drive-in tour for October, and earlier this month, the blues-jam guitarist Marcus King took his stripped-down trio on the road for a tour of only outdoor venues — including a stop at the Circle Drive-In in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and one at South Farms, a 10-acre, family-run farm in Morris, Connecticut. The boutique farm, which typically hosts events like weddings, fundraisers, and cocktail parties, has converted itself into a grassy concert pit for its series “Twilight Concerts on the Farm,” which will see artists like Neko Case and Warren Haynes touch down next month.

“Seeing people not in their cars added a little anxiety for us because we were constantly making sure people were distanced,” King tells Rolling Stone of the group’s show there. “We wanted to make sure this tour didn’t fail and wanted to make sure people were safe and healthy. Morris did a fantastic job of making sure everyone was distanced, and it was a very safe performance.”

“It’s a completely natural experience, and music integrates so harmoniously into the farm experience,” says Ben Paletsky, owner of South Farms. “You drive past a herd of cattle coming in, and there’s top-shelf talent at the venue. The musicians are feeling it just as much as the fans are. The audience is not just receiving a performance. It’s really resonating with both sides in a way that’s never happened before.”

Traditional venues like the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, New Jersey, are also pivoting to outdoors. Their “Concerts in the Garden” series at Monmouth Park feature concerts by the Lone Bellow and Wynton Marsalis, stand-up from comedian Bill Burr, and bills itself as a “safe, socially distanced concert experience at a supper club under the stars.”

But it is still a temporary fix. Winter is coming, and many outdoor shows will be out of the question. “The reality is, just like with farming, Mother Nature will tell you when to stop,” Paletsky says, adding that the farm does not plan to continue its concerts into the winter months.

A half-year into the pandemic’s reach across the U.S. and with too many variables at hand, there’s still no way to tangibly measure the risk of denser large gatherings. Outdoor events, according to health experts, are safer than indoor events because natural factors like wind and open space reduce the risk of virus spread. Such was the thinking behind Newcastle, England’s Virgin Money Unity Area, which billed itself as the world’s “first socially distanced venue” and invited Two Door Cinema Club, the Libertines, and Covid denier Van Morrison to headline.

But the venue was forced to shut down last week after only a month of operation, due to increased restrictions in Newcastle — a turn of events that the showrunners called “extremely disappointing,” since it had, by its own measures, adhered to strict safety standards and done everything right.

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