Are concerts as we know them gone for good?

The Masquerade, is one of dozens of empty concert venues that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

Last year, many of us were pinning tickets to our walls, tying wristbands to our keys and bookbags and remembering yet another summer of stellar concerts and amazing festivals.

This year, we watched our shows get canceled and dates pushed back into the fall and the following year.

COVID-19 has stolen our stages. Do not let it steal your artists as well.

Not only did March bring canceled classes and travel plans, it also brought about a number of canceled tours. Foo Fighters’ Van Tour, Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza, Kesha’s High Road tour, Hangout Fest and BTS’s Map Of The Soul World Tour are just a few of the music events canceled for 2020.

As a direct result of these cancellations, many concert venues are in financial trouble. On June 18, in a letter to Congress, venues and artists lobbied for financial aid for independent venues. Local venues such as 787 Windsor, a personal favorite, Center Stage Atlanta, Smith’s Olde Bar and The Masquerade are all in dire trouble of permanently closing their doors.

In the current financial situation, there’s doubt that these venues will open their doors ever again, whether they see the end of quarantine or not.

But what’s the big whoop, right? It’s about the jobs and the bonds that are created. For example, at my first Atlanta Afropunk, I met two girls; we hit it off and immediately became friends. Now, every year in October, we meet at the front gates of 787 Windsor, spending the days together enjoying great music, eating amazing food and relishing in how it was all possible because of a coincidental meeting over loving the same music.

In a conversation with former Panther Zach Adams, he echoed my concerns. 

“I remember meeting my girlfriend at The Masquerade at the Noname concert in … January,” Adams said. “We were just hanging out, and this girl asked to get in front of us to see the stage, and we hit it off [from there], bonding over the music. That’s the power of concerts and the venues.” 

That’s a power that is being threatened to be lost to time. We lose more than just venues; we lose local jobs, places for artistic expression and freedom and places for local creatives to be heard.

Losing these local venues would not only damage our local economy but our local culture. Without venues such as 787 Windsor muralists such as NELS, may he rest in power, might not have ever become the massive influencers they were. 

Local venues are truly the cultural and social pins of our community. Without them, artists like my brother Kobe Jakil, Cam The Artisan, David The Tragic, Lord Bones and Jelani Imani might not have become the Atlanta icons they are today. 

Concerts bring people together who otherwise wouldn’t have met. They are a safe haven from the craziness that is the world. 

So, do what you can. Buy merch and art. Share your favorite venues on social media. And hopefully, we will be able to enjoy them again in 2021.