Live music returns to Richmond after year of pandemic cancellations

Illustration by Lauren Johnson

Parker Barnes, Contributing Writer

In the absence of live music this past year, a piece of Lucas Fritz, co-owner of local music venue The Broadberry, was missing.

“It’s such a part of who I am and what I’m passionate about,” Fritz said.

Many concert venues were forced to close last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with new safety precautions, some are now prepared to reopen.

Although The Broadberry remains closed, Fritz has begun promoting newly scheduled events through a concert-promoter partnership with The Trigger System, named the Broadberry Entertainment Group. The group books live music events at venues across the Richmond area, such as The Broadberry, The Camel and Gallery5.

This summer at Brown’s Island, pod seating will be used at performances by Grace Potter, Melvin Seals and JGB, Fitz and The Tantrums, and St. Paul & The Broken Bones. This arrangement allows groups of audience members to buy their tickets together and sit in the same area, separated by a distance of six feet or more from other pods. 

To safely coordinate these events, Fritz said the staff has undergone training on cleaning procedures and will be wearing masks for the entirety of the events. Guests will be required to wear masks outside of pods, and masks will be encouraged within pods. People should only leave pods when using the bathroom, Fritz said.

Fritz has coordinated drive-in shows and other modalities over the past year to test the waters for this summer’s lineup, he said.

“It’s kind of everything we’ve been doing for the last year, but just all at once,” Fritz said.

Fritz said the toughest part of navigating this pandemic was the reduced employment opportunities at his venue. The return of “meaningful work” for him and his employees is something he is anticipating in the upcoming months.

“I feel responsible for helping to provide employment for them so they can, in turn, provide for themselves,” Fritz said.

Friday Cheers, an annual outdoor summer concert series, will also return this summer at Brown’s Island, said Stephen Lecky, director of events for Venture Richmond. 

This edition marks Friday Cheers’ 36th year and features local names, such as Piranha Rama, No BS! Brass Band and Leon III.

The tickets will be sold by pod, which come in capacities of two, four and eight. Masks will be required outside of pods and encouraged within them, Lecky said.

“The crowd that typically comes to Friday Cheers is a mindful, thoughtful, hopefully considerate crowd, and I hope it’ll remain that way,” Lecky said.

Further adaptations include digital placement of food and beverage orders. Patrons will receive a text to alert them when their order is ready to reduce wait times, Lecky said.

Tim Miller, director of sales and marketing for ASM Global in Richmond, which manages the Altria Theater, said his venue has events scheduled next month with new precautions, such as social distancing and limited seating, but said they may be delayed to this fall since it’s an indoor venue.

Miller said operating expenses have prevented ASM’s ability to host shows at limited capacity this past year. 

“From a business perspective, it won’t make financial sense, unless we’re at full capacity,” Miller said. 

Despite this, Miller said he is hopeful about the return of live shows as soon as possible.

“I think it’s just seeing the building come back to life,” Miller said. 

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