On December 2nd 2020, Peking Duk pointed out a hypocrisy that had been plaguing the music industry since COVID-19 hit Australia last year.
The duo took to Facebook to write a lengthy status asking, “Is there a magical reason that differentiates how Covid is spread between rugby fans and music fans?”
Their question addressed a huge elephant in the room: why is sport going ahead and music isn’t?
Peking Duk continued, “Why is there a huge discrepancy in the allowed capacities with or without a covid plan??
For context, at the time, the Queensland and WA state governments had banned outdoor music events with numbers of 1,500 people without a COVID-safe plan.
And not long after, 50,000 people had piled into Suncorp Stadium for the State of Origin. Not only that, the venue was able to operate at full capacity, with the crowd limit also having been removed.
“We are the furthest thing from being epidemiologists,” Peking Duk wrote on their Facebook post. “We are all for lockdowns when lockdowns are needed, we are all for social distancing, we are all for isolation when theres a spread and we absolutely love rugby but we can only scratch our heads at why music is being treated differently to an event like rugby which has many parallels and similarities and many, many more patrons.”
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As a longtime lover of both sport and music outlets, I feel that recently, state governments have rendered live music nothing if not neglected, while sport parades around as the favourite child.
I’m definitely not alone in feeling like I’ve lost count of the number of gigs and concerts that have been postponed, or at worst, cancelled.
While there were certain sports postponed last year, we ended up seeing numerous rounds of crowd-less AFL matches throughout the year, culminating in the Grand Final in October at The Gabba.
Meanwhile earlier in the year, we saw bands like the DMA’s (who opened the match along with a few other acts), reduced to playing lonely livestream gigs at the State Library of Victoria, for example.
In recent times, over the last month or so the open-air live music series, Live at the Bowl kicked off, playing host to cult-loved series Piknic Élektronik and more. While Live at the Bowl might be currently underway, it’s not without a hefty amount of COVID-safe restrictions.
Despite it all, Melbourne has recovered some ‘normal’ version of itself, with our culture’s mainstays: restaurants, cafes, bars (and clubs – a question mark on that one) being able to re-open. Day parties have also slowly but surely begun to resuscitate our city at a handful of venues including Port Melbourne’s, The Timber Yard and North Melbourne’s, The Third Day.
While these parties might sporadically pop-up and go down without a hitch, these days it feels so anti-establishment when live music events go ahead – despite the fact that they’re totally legal.
And now off the back of the 2021 Australian Open, last Friday the Victorian government announced that the AFL will soon be making it’s entry into 2021. 50,000 spectators will be allowed to return to the MCG for the AFL season opener, while up to 28,961 fans will be permitted into games at Marvel Stadium.
Originally scheduled in for March 6th, the pandemic rendition of the insanely next level bush doof/music festival, Pitch Music & Arts is now being postponed until October this year.
Untitled Group wrote, “After carefully fulfilling all immigration/visa requirements and overcoming the shortage of flight availabilities, we sympathise with our artists that are currently in hotel quarantine or have recently completed this for the performance at Pitch Black.”
“This decision to postpone did not come lightly. After reviewing the ever evolving health and safety requirements that have been enforced onto us as a result of the recent outbreak in Melbourne, this would mean that the production quality of the event would unfortunately be compromised considerably.”
And even more recently and on a larger scale, Splendour In The Grass is now postponed basically a year and a half since its original 2020 date.
If we look at other states, the restrictions and double standards across these industries follow suit.
For context, the petition reads, “On the 28th of November 2020 South Australia recorded its last case of community transmission of COVID-19, connected to the Parafield cluster. On Christmas Day, after 28 days of zero community transmission, WA opened its borders to SA.”
“Now, a month later, at the tail end of January, we still experience many of the same restrictions that inhibit the performance and viability of many industries, despite the ongoing streak of zero community transmission since November 28.”
While live music and dancing might still hang in the balance in South Australia, today the NSW Government and the Ministry Of Health approved a COVID safe plan for Yours & Owls Festival.
Yours & Owls receiving the green light to go ahead in Wollongong next month sends a massively positive message to all related entities. And it’s definitely exciting to see a light at the end of the tunnel – hopefully we can start to see more and more of our festivals return soon.
The reality is that dancing and being connected to that energy of live music is something we all deserve. The same way our cities deserve sport.
So, in the words of Peking Duk, I once again propose the question: “Is there a magical reason that differentiates how covid is spread between rugby fans and music fans?”