This Socially Distanced Concert Series Hits the Right Notes

Thoughtful “room” sets and precautionary measures make these outdoor concerts enjoyable and safe for participants during the pandemic.

Author: Jennifer N. Dienst       

live events

The Safe Sounds live music series in Charleston, South Carolina, helps support local businesses, from bartenders to food trucks to AV providers. (Ellison White)

Apart from international travel and events, one of the things I miss most about life PC (pre-covid) is live music. In July, when a neighborhood distillery launched an outdoor concert series, I was skeptical. The last thing I wanted was to find myself squeezed in a packed crowd at the peak of a pandemic.

However, the experience was a surprise hit.

Besides feeling elated to be out in the world among people again, the best part about the experience was being able to enjoy a live concert from my own private perch — every ticket to ‘Safe Sounds’ included a 10′ x 10′ square for up to four people. I could sit, stand, and get groovy with my quaran-pod (my small group of my friends who have been quarantining), all without worrying about strangers bumping into us.

“Everyone kept saying, ‘I feel like a VIP — I don’t want to go to a normal concert ever again,’” said Sara Bennett, events manager at Firefly Distillery. “We heard that over and over again.”

Spacing was key. Each row of squares had eight feet of space on either side, so I never felt wary of neighbors or groups passing by uncomfortably close. The distillery, which is well known for its sweet tea vodka, has four acres of land overlooking North Charleston’s moss-draped Noisette Creek including a field that can host outdoor events of up to 5,000 at full capacity. Since attendance was capped at 500, just 10 percent of their total capacity, the setup felt wide open and, most importantly, safe.

The venue still required masks whenever concertgoers left their squares — an extra precaution I appreciated for the moments when I did worry about inadvertent crowding, like standing in line to grab a drink. Bennett says they worked with the city’s police department and checked local ordinances before coming up with their health and safety guidelines, which included —

  • Requiring all staff and vendors to wear masks
  • Offering hand sanitizer to guests throughout the distillery grounds
  • Providing extra restrooms with sanitation attendant for the concert series
  • Spacing picnic tables and concert series squares eight feet apart

Bennett and her team took also extra precautions to ensure concertgoers stuck to these rules. Barricades and signage were ample, and the band often reminded the audience of the rules. Extra security also kept a watchful eye on revelers to ensure they stayed within their squares.

So far, the series has been a success and it will continue through the end of the fall. In Bennett’s experience, “People want to follow the rules,” she said. “They want to stay safe so we can do things like this again.”

Jennifer N. Dienst is managing editor at Convene.

Scenes from the Safe Sounds Concert Series

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The Safe Sounds concert series has "bolstered people’s spirits,” said Sara Bennett, Firefly Distillery events manager. “And we’re putting people back to work.” (Ellison White)

live events

Firefly Distillery in North Charleston, is set up to host a Safe Sounds concert. The series has helped bring much-needed business to an industry hit hard by the coronavirus. (Ellison White)

live events

The seating squares at Firefly Distillery for the concert series were set up eight feet apart. (Ellison White)

live events

Charleston–based band Runaway Gin plays to about 500 concert-goers in June at Firefly Distillery. (Ellison White)

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