Across the nation, DMs are flying across social media inboxes at the speed of light, with friend groups asking one another, “Are we doing the pod this year?”

What are they talking about?

No, they are not talking about the “Tide pod challenge”, or SpaceX rockets, or revolutionary new “moon pod” beanbags (which are really, really dope by the way). 

They are talking about outdoor festival health and safety. 

With the return of outdoor concerts (FINALLY! 🥵) the question on everyone’s mind is how to “correctly” perform the required social distancing rituals remains hotly contested.

The playbook for what is “correct” and what is “incorrect” has changed so many times, that everyone’s heads are spinning. 

This article hopes to restore some kind of normality and order.

Many outdoor concerts are offering the option of “pods,” or socially distant areas demarcated by a boundary that tells other people not to come near, while giving the concert-goer a fixed spot in front of the stage. 

One party-goer told us, “I think pods are kinda whack. But at the same time, I completely understand why they are a necessity for some people.“

What is a “pod?”

For the uninitiated, a “pod” was the music industry’s response to our collective inability to have shoulder-to-shoulder contact during Covid. 

Many concerts were popping up all over the country, featuring this format, and “pods” became particularly popular with the drive-in shows, where you could attend an event without even having to get out of your car. 

The main inconvenience, of course, remains the distance between you and your friends. 

A lot of us go to concerts specifically to hug our friends, and not to stay away from them. Consequently, many people ignored rules and regulations on social distancing, and got out of their cars to rage anyway. This, understandably, has upset many people, who just wanted to be able to hear their favorite artists — without being exposed to any unnecessary threats. 

After nearly a year and a half of being told to stay home to help slow the spread, the tolls of being isolated came due.  

By April, as vaccination rates shot up, people began craving opportunities to rage more and more. 

Because of its unpredictable nature, the virus has made planning problematic.  Between travel restrictions and having to maintain other commitments, many had to change their plans unexpectedly.  I’m short, the world was no longer the place it once was.  This made it difficult for 2020 ticket holders to “simply” push to 2021.  

The reasons for this difficulty were countless.  Some were still due to get their shots, while others faced uncertainty with their job status, and some feared the unknown future variant of the virus that is yet to be discovered. These, among other things, made travel arrangements difficult — particularly internationals. 

“I’ve had my shots already, but the events industry hasn’t finished ‘rebooting’ yet. Many concerts aren’t happening until the end of the month. It’s kind of annoying.”

But over time, the dynamics of the spread of the virus have shifted. By springtime, going out in public began to make more and more sense — even for those who were heavily opposed to going out at first. 

By the middle of March, caseloads across the country fell by over 90%. By mid-April, they fell by 95% and by mid-May the CDC has rolled out new guidelines that allow vaccinated adults to appear in public without a mask. 

So, what now?

On May 13, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told “CBS This Morning,” “We’ve got to make that transition.” 

Now, festivals are in a tough predicament. After planning for many many months to move forward with social distancing, suddenly, people are coming out in droves saying that they don’t want to social distance.

It may seem crazy, but if you study social media, or ask festivals to show you what’s going on inside their email inboxes, you will see a common theme. People are sick and tired of being locked up, and they do not want to pay money to see their favorite artists while being further locked up for it.

Music has always been about freedom of expression. Is it any surprise that many are considering skipping entire festivals because they think that this has somehow changed after covid?

Well, we think that the virus has only strengthened people‘s desire for that freedom of expression.

Being captain isolation for the entirety of the 2020 festival season has only contributed to the commonly shared desire to “break free.”

In response, festivals are trying to make the best out of a less-than-ideal situation. 

Some partygoers are still looking to play it safe, and utilize their pods. Others are saying, “I don’t care about pods, just give me my damn ticket already.“

Here is how the festivals are providing the best of both worlds to folks on either of the aisle.

  1. Maintain covid guidelines for hand washing and sanitizing surfaces. 
  2. Continue with temp checks at the gate.
  3. Keep the requirement of having a mask at the gate (you can take it off inside the festival grounds and/or at your campsite).
  4. Improve EMS best practices to include clear messaging delivered via brochures and signs that remind guests about social distancing.
  5. Offering the pods as an optional upgrade 

That last one is particularly important. 

Because if you are the type of partygoer who finds pause overly intrusive, you no longer have to suffer that possibility. And for those partygoers who wouldn’t attend without it, the pods can still be there.

Fests like Bigfoot Electro 2021 deserve particular praise in this regard, because they not only made the pods optional, but they’ve also refused to charge extra for them.  Although their ticket prices have slightly increased from last year, the GA tickets for all three days are still under $200 and the small price increase was spent on additional staff for sanitization and EMS+security.  

Let’s cross our fingers and hope that the infection rate declines beyond 95%, down to 100%, in the near future. 

People are sick and tired of being sick and tired. They want to come discharge their collective tensions and struggles. 

But the question remains, to pod, or not to park? That is the question. 

Let’s count our blessings for having the ability to ask that question in the first place.

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