Five thousand music fans are to pack into the first live gig without social distancing for over a year, as part of research into reopening large events.
Chart-topping indie band Blossoms will headline the sold out concert in a big top in Liverpool’s Sefton Park later.
Everyone must have had a negative Covid test, with the research helping determine how this summer’s festival season can go ahead.
“We’re really excited just to play live,” Blossoms singer Tom Ogden said.
“Especially if we can get our industry back open,” drummer Joe Donovan added on BBC Breakfast.
“It’s been closed for so long with very little support, if any support, so it will be nice to get back and kickstart it again. Get it back on track.”
The Stockport five-piece will be supported by rising Wigan band The Lathums. Asked how excited he was, frontman Alex Moore told the programme: “I don’t think you can put it into words to be honest.
“We’ve all been cooped up for a year. It’s what we were meant to do, this is what we’ve been working for for years. It’s just an amazing feeling.”
It will be the first concert since last March where fans can stand shoulder-to-shoulder – not to mention sit on someone else’s shoulders, crowdsurf or jump into a moshpit.
All members of the audience had to fill in a health questionnaire and take lateral flow tests at one of four centres in the city on Saturday. They will be able to put their face masks away once inside the venue.
“It’s not been a great year, but I’m absolutely looking forward to it this afternoon,” one ticket-holder, Lawrence Whelan, told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“I just can’t wait to get back to it. I just love going to gigs and stuff, and as soon as I heard about this one I was straight on, getting tickets.” He added: “I feel pretty safe – a little bit anxious, but pretty safe.”
Beverley Morley, who will be seeing Blossoms for the fourth time, added: “I feel really excited about what we’ve got to come.
“I don’t feel too anxious at the moment, but maybe once I’m there it will be a bit strange not having the mask on and everything.”
All attendees have also been given two PCR tests to take at home on Sunday and next Friday. Organisers say that is optional but “crucial in providing the vital data that is needed by the scientists”.
As well as studying any spread of the virus following the event, researchers will examine factors like audience movement and interaction, ventilation, duration, catering and alcohol consumption.
‘I forced the government’
The six-hour gig is being put on by Reading and Leeds festival promoters Festival Republic, whose managing director Melvin Benn said he persuaded the government to add it to the line-up of official pilot events.
“This wasn’t originally in the Events Research Programme, and if I’m honest I sort of forced them to do it because I didn’t think they would get enough data for festivals without it,” he told BBC Radio Merseyside on Friday. “And then they very much agreed.”
The gig follows trial events at a nightclub in a warehouse in the city on Friday and Saturday for 3,000 fans per night. DJs including Fatboy Slim, Sven Vath and The Blessed Madonna topped the bill.
Other official pilot events include the World Snooker Championships at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, where a capacity crowd will watch the final on Sunday.