Over the Fourth of July weekend, live music returned to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia for the first time since fall 2019, and it was music to everyone’s ears.
“It is very exciting,” said Ian Kennedy, executive director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission which owns Merriweather. “People are definitely ready to get back to concerts.”
The last live concert performance at Merriweather was in October 2019 and then the “whole world closed” because of the coronavirus pandemic according to Audrey Fix Schaefer, communications director for I.M.P., the independent concert promotion and production company behind Merriweather Post Pavilion
“There is a lot of pent-up demand for the bands to get out there and the fans to get out,” Schaefer said. “I am so grateful we are living in a time and place where three different types of vaccines are readily available to everyone.”
Free COVID-19 vaccines were offered during the three-day M3 Rock Festival that took place from Friday to Sunday, Schaefer said. Vaccines will continue to be offered to concert attendees throughout the upcoming season.
Vaccinations at the popular outdoor venue will be administered by the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services’ Mobile Integrated Community Health team and Howard County Health Department nurses, according to a news release from the county. All three vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration — the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, as well as the single-dose Johnson & Johnson — will be available.
People who received a vaccine were given guidance as to when and where to get their second shots if they opted for one of the two-dose shots. Those from out of state are encouraged to call their local health departments if they had more questions.
“People come from all over the country and world for this,” Schaefer said of the M3 concerts, so it made sense to offer vaccines to those in attendance.
Those attending events at Merriweather will find things pretty much back to normal.
People who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus do not have to wear a mask, but those who are not fully vaccinated are required to do so. Food — including hamburgers, pizza and popcorn, as well as beer, cocktails and wine — is also available for sale through cashless transactions only.
“Make sure to come hungry. We have great choices,” Schaefer said. “We are not a cookie-cutter venue, and neither is our food.”
All patrons are encouraged to use mobile ticketing whenever possible to limit contact.
Live concerts will continue starting next month with New Kids on the Block and Salt N Pepa on Aug. 4; a variety of shows are booked through the beginning of October.
“It was a challenge to book this summer,” Schaefer said. “Normally, we book a year before or six months before. Usually, our season starts in April.”
Other upcoming concerts include James Taylor, Zac Brown Band, Pitbull, Dierks Bentley and AJR. Several concerts that were postponed in 2020 have also been rescheduled including Alanis Morissette, Luke Bryan, Dave Matthews Band and Rod Stewart. Additional musical acts are also still being added, Schaefer said.
“Every year, we are like a jukebox or your music collection on shuffle,” Schaefer said of the various musical groups scheduled, ranging from country to electronic to pop and rock. “It makes it a lot of fun. Every night there is a different crowd and music.”
While the rest of July’s calendar does not offer live musical acts, Kennedy said a variety of other events are being planned and will be announced soon.
“We’ve taken this opportunity during the pandemic to re-imagine the calendar and the artistic programs to do,” Kennedy said. “There is more to come.”
Past programs have included movie nights, Soulful Symphony concerts and OPUS Merriweather, a multimedia festival featuring music, technology, art and food.
“Hopefully, people will feel comfortable coming back to Merriweather,” Kennedy said. “Merriweather is a great place to come back after the pandemic. There’s open air and room to spread out. I can’t wait to host all types of events.”
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Baltimore Sun Media content editor Erin Hardy contributed to this article.