If you’re in any way interested in what’s happening now in music, you’ll know what Primavera Sound is – or, at least, you should. Ever since it burst onto the scene in 2001, it has been the global benchmark for festivals, constantly impressing with its scope and commitment to the art-form. Always the first to give the brightest lights of contemporary music a platform, the likes of James Blake, Arcade Fire, Sigur Rós and Run the Jewels have all come of age on the sun-bleached plaza of the Parc del Fòrum.
Ok, I know you’re not here to read about how good Primavera Sound is – in any case, it’s best to experience it first-hand. And, against all odds, you might just get the chance in 2021.
In the milder heat of early December, the organisers of Primavera Sound, in conjunction with a number of medical charities and authorities, embarked upon PRIMACOV. Despite its almost sinister name, smacking of shady espionage, this operation was altogether less exciting. But in a very real way, the fate of live music in 2021 rested on its shoulders.
The goal was simple: put on a concert without social distancing. How? Well, here’s the kicker: each audience-member received a rapid test before entering. It takes just 15 minutes to return a result and tells you whether the patient is contagious. So on Saturday December 12, just outside Barcelona, PRIMACOV managed to give 1,042 music-lovers a couple of hours of escape. Inside the Sala Polo, as local DJs filled the venue with sound, it was as if 2020 was no longer happening, as if they had been simply transported to some different time, whether past or future.
“That was, precisely, the objective of this study,” explained the team behind PRIMACOV, “to validate these kinds of tests as an extremely useful tool to be able to carry out any type of event, whether musical or not, without social distancing.”
After the success of the operation, Primavera Sound stated its intention to return this June. As always, the line-up is world-beating, boasting a range that runs from the glitchy irony of cult-sensation 100 gecs and the hyper-technical heaviness of Mercury Prize-nominees black midi (yes, both of those names are supposed to be in lower-case) to trap super-star Young Thug and psych-rock pioneer Tame Impala.
But how come the trial was so successful? It’s simple. The current protocol for COVID-19 testing is to use PCR tests. This is because they are capable of detecting incredibly small quantities of viral material in the patient. It’s not that this approach is wrong – indeed, it should remain the backbone of our testing infrastructure. The problem is that this approach may be too comprehensive for a number of situations. With rapid tests, a positive result corresponds to an amount of viral material that would render the patient infectious, with or without symptoms – in short, whether the patient is safe to be around others. For a concert, which lasts only a short period of time, a negative rapid test result is all that is required for a safe experience, even if this same patient might return a positive PCR test. It is entirely possible, therefore, that a number of the 1, 042 lucky participants in PRIMACOV would have received a positive result from a PCR test and yet the event proceeded without obstacle.
Hopefully, with a rather dire start to 2021 for so many, this news will be another light in the darkness. Happy New Year!
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