What It's Really Like Attending a Concert In the Age of Coronavirus

While several artists are postponing tours amid coronavirus, some have found a way to safely return to the stage through drive-in concerts. Here, an E! staffer's experience at a socially distant event

By Linda Kim Jul 20, 2020 9:32 PMTags
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If you're a big music lover like me, then you're probably missing concerts. After all, there is nothing like seeing your favorite artist on stage and taking in the joys of live music, the crowd dancing, the speakers blasting.
Since earlier this year, several artists—including Taylor Swift and Jay-Z—have postponed or canceled their tours due to the global pandemic. It was a necessary move to ensure the health and safety of stars, their teams and attendees, but fans, including me, miss it so much. And now, in the age of coronavirus and social distancing, it seems as if concerts are no longer a realistic event to look forward to.

Or, so we thought. Musicians are slowly starting to feel comfortable stepping back on the stage. That is, with a new idea in mind: Drive-in shows.

So, when I received an invite to Audi Presents: Summer Drive-in Concert featuring a performance by Kehlani last week, I immediately said yes. Not only was I excited to see Kehlani and hear live music, but I was also longing to experience a normal activity that I used to do regularly before coronavirus. Of course, it would not be the same as old times, as this was a reimagined, socially distant event, but that is just the world we are living in.

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As soon as I arrived at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, California, I was met by staff who directed me where to go each step of the way. In accordance with CDC guidelines, all guests were required to participate in a brief medical screening upon entrance, which included getting my temperature taken and filling out a questionnaire. Had I traveled anywhere recently? Had I been experiencing any coronavirus-like symptoms? Had I been exposed to anyone with COVID in the last 14 days?

Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Audi)"

Afterwards, I was given a mask, hand sanitizer and a card that assigned me to a parking spot. (This was determined by when you arrived, so thankfully I showed up an hour early!) To ensure everyone's safety, each vehicle was parked in a socially distanced area and everyone was required to wear masks the entire time. I felt comfortable and never confused as to where to go—it was extremely organized. 

Once you were in your designated area, you stayed put throughout the event, which was in celebration of essential and frontline workers. While guests were able to stay inside their vehicles and listen to audio from a radio station, I chose to sit outside, where people were dancing next to their cars. Still, fans were not allowed to get too close to the stage—or each other. While I miss crowds, it was nice to have our own space and not feel packed in like sardines.

Finally, it was showtime. When Kehlani came out on stage, she jokingly asked the audience to excuse her voice since she hadn't been performing lately. "I'm out of breath because I haven't sung in three months," she shared. "I've been in the house."

Still, she sounded amazing, of course, and belted out some of her hit songs along with tracks from her latest album. which she was performing live for the first time. 

Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Audi

She also addressed how life is different now. In the past, she was used to being close to the crowds, able to physically interact with them. But that is no more. "It's really nice to socially distance meet ya'll," Kehlani, who was supposed to be on tour at this time, said. "I'm usually touching people's hands. I'm touching your hands in spirit. I'm happy that we were able to do this. This is a new and cool experience."

Indeed, it's a new and cool experience for several superstars who are ready to make a return. Last month, Garth Brooks performed a one-night only live concert for over 350,000 fans at drive-in theaters across North America, the first of its kind.

"It reminded me how much I miss the crazy, happy, and unpredictable life we lead as entertainers," he said afterwards. "For one night, things seemed...right." 

And I couldn't agree more. Artists are longing to get back on stage to entertain their fans and we are patiently waiting. While drive-in concerts are not what we are used to, they have become the new normal during this time. For me, getting to hear music blasting from a stage was one of the happiest experiences I've had in the past few months—and I can't wait for more to come.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic and for tips on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, please visit The Center for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov. To plan your vaccine, head to NBC's Plan Your Vaccine site at PlanYourVaccine.com.