Safety first at Music Hall's socially distant Detroit Music Weekend

Saturday event to feature live music and lots of disinfectants

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Music Hall's Detroit Music Weekend returns Friday and Saturday, bringing live music at a time when performance stages have largely fallen silent.

Music Hall president Vince Paul says he's studied precautions on how to throw a safe live event in the era of COVID-19 — including social distancing requirements for both audience members and performers — and he's ready to show off his findings. 

Vince Paul, executive director, stands in the Hall of Decades at the Detroit Music Hall which celebrates their  90th anniversary on Sunday as they open their new historical museum. Paul, gave a tour of the museum in
Detroit on Wednesday, December 5, 2018.
  Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

"I hope people come down and check out our protocols," says Paul. "More than that, I hope they come out and check out the live music. I want people to feel that bass kick in their chest. They haven’t had a good bass kick in their chest in five months."

Festivities kick off Friday with a 6:30 p.m. drive-in concert fundraiser, held in Music Hall's 15,000-square foot parking lot, paying tribute to the music of the 1950s. The show will be topped by Kern Brantley, who has played bass for Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Aretha Franklin and more; capacity is limited to 50 cars and tickets are $5,000 each, with the funds raised benefitting Music Hall's education programs.  

Saturday's free day-long event will unfold from noon to 9 p.m. in Music Hall's parking lot. The concert will feature a rotating group of musicians and will respect rules of social distancing; the audience will be limited to 88 guests, and each pair of two will have access to a 6-foot by 6-foot square of carpet to call their own. Attendees are required to wear masks — masks will be provided to those who don't have them — and there will be multiple disinfectant stations on the grounds. 

Around 40 acts will play over the course of the day, and musicians will also be required to wear masks, except when singing. Artists will perform a few songs apiece, stage equipment will be disinfected in between performers, and Paul hopes audiences sample the music, enjoy themselves and move on.  

"I want people get a taste, and then make room for other people," he says. "I don't want people to park there." 

Previous Detroit Music Weekends have featured Aretha Franklin (2017) and the Jacksons (2018). 

Paul says he was driven to put on the festival in-person and not online to both celebrate the power and importance of live music and to show others how live events can be done safely in the midst of a pandemic. He wants others to study his set up and replicate it so musicians in the city can get back to work. 

He says the protocols he's put in place align with the guidelines of the mayor's office, the governor's office, the CDC the professional chemical company he's worked closely with in devising his plan.

Checking those boxes simultaneously, "you've got yourself a pretty safe festival," he says.