BARCELONA — Musicians on stage, spotlights flooding the arena and 5,000 fans dancing ecstatically: Live music was back in Barcelona on Saturday for a clinical trial seeking pandemic-safe ways to celebrate mass events.
“This is for one night only, so enjoy it,” said a presenter at Saint Jordi Arena just minutes before the start of the gig by one of Spain’s most popular bands, indie rockers Love of Lesbian.
Ahead of the party, everyone underwent mass screening and antigen tests, donning FPP2 surgical masks to attend the gig, which came after an unprecedented year of confinement, social distancing and very little social interaction.
“I’m so very, very excited. It’s been 18 months since we’ve been on stage and one of us up here is in tears!” shouted lead singer Santi Balmes after the first song that was appropriately called “Nobody in the streets.” His euphoria was shared by the audience.
“It’s incredible, so exciting. We’d forgotten what it was like to be around other people, it’s as if it was my first-ever gig,” said Jordi Sanz who like everyone was in the mosh pit, the area in front of the stage as all stands were left empty.
“We really wanted to do something different, to take a step toward normality,” said Marina Crespo, 25, who, in spite of the security measures, was trying “not get too close to people, to keep a bit of distance.”
Even so, the atmosphere was like traveling back to a time before the pandemic with excited crowds dancing, hugging each other and belting out songs at the top of their voices, or just drinking beers at the bar.
Behind the event was a group of music and festival promoters as well as a local hospital that said the safety measures, which included a special ventilation system, made it a safer space than inside a private home.
“We expect it to be completely safe. Over the next 14 days we will look at how many of the audience test positive for COVID-19 and will report back,” explained Josep Maria Llibre, a doctor at the Germans Trias i Pujol hospital just north of Barcelona.
‘Hole in tunnel’
The aim was “to discover a way in which we can coexist with Covid and hold concerts, which are completely safe,” said Ventura Barba, executive director of Barcelona’s Sonar festival, which was one of the organizers.
“We hope it will be a turning point,” he added. “The pandemic has been a nightmare for everyone, but for the music industry in particular.”
According to a study published by Spain’s Music Federation, the European music industry lost 76 percent of its earnings in 2020.
For Love of Lesbian’s lead singer, Saturday’s gig was aimed at showing those in the music industry there was a way forward.
“It is creating a hole in the tunnel so the world of culture can see some light, or at least a possible way of doing things,” Balmes said.
The tickets for Saturday’s concert sold out within just a few hours.
“It was a real buzz but it’s logical: We’ve been living in a time of restraint and everyone’s had their handbrake on,” he said. “We all need to let off a bit of steam and get back to our old lives.”
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