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Elements Festival revolutionizing live music in a COVID-19 world with eye-catching line-up reveal & proof of vaccination/testing model [Interview]

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After releasing an eye-catching 2021 line-up, Elements organizers delved deep into the specifics of their industry-changing model for keeping attendees safe.

Nearing the end of 2020, festival organizers and fans alike are desperately seeking out new and safe ways to bring back live music. Ticketing behemoth and Live Nation subsidiary Ticketmaster even purported the idea of requiring attendees to use their smartphones to verify their COVID-19 vaccination or negative-diagnosis status in order to gain entry into its events.

Given the implications surrounding privacy and confidentiality, digital tracking and footprinting, and basic human rights concerns, among other things, this idea was met with harsh criticism by a large percentage of the public. However controversial, the idea to provide proof of vaccination or incorporating testing in order to be admitted into a concert or festival still seemed to be both valid and reasonable, at least as far as laying down a concrete pathway for the “return to live.”

Now that vaccinations are rolling out across the United States, and the number of vaccinated now matches the number of COVID cases, multi-day, music, arts, and camping event, Elements Festival, plans on instituting a hybrid of this policy for its Labor Day Weekend activities. According to the organizers, festival-goers will be required to either show proof of vaccination or take their free two-part COVID-19 testing protocol. The protocol consists of a PCR lab COVID-19 test before the event and an additional rapid test at the gate. 

As it stands, festival personnel have not given much detail about how attendees will be tested or what even constitutes “proof of vaccination.” They’ve also mentioned that additional testing for all may be required. However, fans should feel confident in the festival’s ability to safely navigate these unfamiliar and daunting waters, as the organizers were incredibly successful in replicating a similar format not once, but twice in 2020 with their “In My Elements” retreats. The two-part “festival retreat” series (one in the summer and one in the fall) saw zero reported COVID-19 cases following the events. 

Conscious Electronic got the chance to chat with up and coming tech-house producer KEENAN, who will be opening up on the Fire stage, about his thoughts on the proposed model.

“I think that all festivals for the foreseeable future are going to have to put in similar protocols when it comes to ensuring the safety of the festival-goers. If we want to reunite with one another, it needs to be done in a safe and responsible manner. I commend Elements for taking the charge in having this discussion on how to safely throw an event. Not all systems will be perfect though, and will definitely need to be tweaked when we have a better indication as to what the world will look like in September.” 

Connor Keenan

Why change one festival when you can change all of them?

But simply putting on a safe music festival wasn’t enough for the founders of Elements Festival, Brett Herman and Timothy Monkiewicz. The duo, who are also the founders of Brooklyn-based event and production company BangOn!, took things a step further and created a consultation and production service company named Tested Contained Retreats (TCR)—an agency meant to help combat the challenges that the live event industry is facing amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The intentions of TCR are to develop custom strategies to safely operate limited size retreats, events, performances, conferences, and gatherings by utilizing safety and mitigation procedures for COVID-19—a mechanism that proved to be incredibly effective with the events they hosted in 2020. Here is what Herman and Monkiewicz had to say about their revolutionary idea in an interview with Forbes.

“Since lockdown started, we devoted a huge amount of time exploring the question, ‘Under what circumstances can events happen safely?’ We started out asking this question for our own events, but we realized that others are, and will continue to ask the same questions. We sought to create a means to help out others, our colleagues, and the live events industry in general. We've learned so much over the last six months, and we consider it our civic duty to share the processes that have worked for us with hopes of helping those who want to do something in a similar realm. There is no large-scale relief in sight for live events, so we felt it's time to start working within these strange new parameters while being as safe and cautious as possible.”

Brett Herman
bang-on!-nyc-founders-brett-herman-timothy-monkiewicz
Brett Herman and Timothy Monkiewicz, founders of NYC’s Elements Music & Art Festival. Photo courtesy of Elements.

It’s clear that the safety and well-being of festival-goers are of top concern for the curators of the event, and Elements’ exhaustive research and thorough initiatives prove such. Herman goes into further detail about the testing protocols in an interview with Conscious Electronic: “We implemented our two-part testing protocol in 2020 based on months of research since lockdown started and advice from a variety of medical professionals.” He continues,

"In 2021, with another full year of data to review, we will be using the best technology and methodology available based on information from an even wider pool of medical professionals, and incorporating the latest guidance from the CDC and state.”

Brett Herman

In the same interview with CE, Herman also discussed how the hardships faced over the last year have only made him and his team more adapted to face any and all challenges that might arise.

“We’ve taken so many punches over the years we actually feel more prepared for this in general...from shuttle buses being driven off the road, to broken warehouse sprinklers as doors are opening, it seems like every event has at least one unforeseen hurdle. But you just get better at hurdling, and prepare for a new and more interesting one each time!”

Brett Herman

Given the unpredictable nature of the current climate, “hurdling” is certainly a necessary skill. In any case, fans and the music community as a whole should feel confident with the organizers of Elements Festival leading the helm of what could be a revolution for live music as we know it. 

Taking place in Lakewood, Pennsylvania, Elements is boasting everything from large-scale art installations and interactive performances to 3D video projection mapping technology. Held on Labor Day Weekend, September 3-6, 2021, Elements will feature main performances from the likes of Chris Lake, Diplo, Bonobo, and one more unrevealed headliner.

While the festival was able to retain the majority of its 2020 line-up—including Rusko, Desert Dwellers, Esseks, and The Widdler on the Earth stage—new additions in Ganja White Night and CloZee will be a welcomed treat for bass lovers. Other notable acts include Yotto, Cassian, Öona Dahl, and more on the Air stage, along with a wacky Desert Hearts takeover.

On the Water stage, house fanatics will see the welcomed return of Dirtybird headmaster Claude VonStroke as well as Golf Clap, DJ Giobbi, and The Sponges, along with more of the Dirtybird flock, including Walker & Royce, Will Clarke, and J. Worra on the Fire stage. View the first-phase line-up for Elements 2021 below.

Register for presale access to tickets here, set to go live on February 8, 2021.

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