On March 11, indie rock mainstays Dinosaur Jr. announced a months-long North American tour, with a two month first leg kicking off in September and a second one on the West Coast scheduled throughout next February. The dates signal renewed confidence that live music may be able to safely return in some form in 2021, despite industry figures and health experts predicting a 2022 comeback earlier in the year. While there's reason for hope and these shows are something to look forward to, they're not a sure bet—and a number of positive things in America's ongoing effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have to happen before live music becomes a reality again.
For one, maintained masking and distancing measures still need to happen across the United States. "Provided concertgoers practice COVID-19 prevention (i.e., double masking and social distancing), concerts are probably OK with reduced capacity," said Dr. Danielle Ompad, an associate professor of epidemiology specializing in infectious diseases at NYU's School of Global Public Health said in an email to VICE. She continued: "I would not go to a concert where people are not masking. But keep in mind that the vaccine rollout is still a bit slow and definitely inequitable both within the U.S. and between countries." Most importantly, vaccination rates also need to significantly increase and enough people need to be fully vaccinated before any talk of shows can safely happen at scale.
As it stands right now, the United States is currently giving out over 2.1 million shots a day; since vaccination efforts kicked off in December, more than 95.7 million doses have been administered to 18.8 percent of the total U.S. population (9.9 percent have been fully vaccinated), according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts still predict that around 70 percent of Americans need to be vaccinated in order for communities to achieve herd immunity, though new COVID-19 variants and vaccine hesitancy, in addition to premature reopenings and mask mandates lifting in states like Texas, might make that number hard to reach in time. Still, if the Biden administration's effort to make it possible for every adult American to get the vaccine by May stays on course, reaching this number by the fall is possible.
A representative for Dinosaur Jr. confirmed to VICE that all members of the band have been vaccinated, adding that the band hopes that these shows will happen as planned and be "normal shows."
Routing a tour requires a lot of planning, and for these shows to work out, COVID-19 cases need to significantly fall and vaccinations need to significantly rise. If every venue worker and enough of the concert-going population gets fully-vaccinated, maintains distancing and diligent mask-wearing before herd immunity hits, there's reason for hope. There's still a lot of work to do and America is nowhere near out of the woods with the pandemic, but a loud club show might actually happen before the year's end.
Find the full list of Dinosaur Jr. tour dates on the band's website.