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The Culture After COVID

Article by: Corey Fox

As the days go on, I feel more and more like the snarky protagonist in an anti-utopian, Orwellian thriller, as if the year was 2077 and the Los Angeles skyline has morphed into Tokyo 2.0. Towering infernos refurbished with menacing neon lights and a nauseating, tear inducing smog penetrating our nasal cavities. Stay-at-home orders and curfew announcements echoing ad nauseum through the alleyways and avenues on high-rise megaphone speakers. Barren shelves in grocery stores, food shortages, and toilet paper battles to the death in aisle five. Only to walk outside to see everyone bearing surgical masks on the crowded sidewalks as flying cars coast high above our heads—an almost Tron-like superhighway of fog cutter skiffs floating on elevated interstate lanes like intergalactic pirate ships in a rush hour traffic jam. Okay, the flying cars are a bit of a stretch, but the year is actually 2020 and the former is nothing short of reality.

They like to say the future is now but the “now” certainly seems grim, especially for cornerstone EDM events like EDC and Ultra. What was once a safe haven for like-minded house music heads and neck-breaking dubstep aficionados is now a breeding ground for the coronavirus and fast-rising second wave infection rates. A festival in the midst of a pandemic seems like a veritable, transient wasteland of perfect opportunities to cultivate and spread this deadly disease to our friends and fellow ravers. How many times in a single weekend can I re-apply hand sanitizer?

This year, we have all waded through troubled waters like death on the River Styx—oars extending out from our physical vessels, wafting steadily through the muck of this turbulent contagion. All the while the skies are peppered with gloomy wildfire smoke, painting not-so-happy clouds on the distant horizon. Meandering aimlessly like wandering apparitions, wearing masks on the shores of Dante’s Inferno. Clusterfucked, like exasperated demogorgons, we reminisce over Zoom chats about “life before the coronavirus” and the lifestyles we took for granted before we devolved into this anxiety-ridden and hopelessly unromantic “new normal” that the 24-hour news cycle bestows upon us.

Now, whether we like to admit it or not, the status quo has changed. Large gatherings seem like a thing of the past as drive-in festivals and social distancing events rise in popularity. Night clubs are offering one-night shows as “in-house dining experiences.” A sea of incongruous restaurant tables litter the dance club floor where we all used to conjugate with electrifying shuffle dances. We are well into our umpteenth month of “quarantine-malaise” and I see no end in sight here in Los Angeles. The constant updates by the CDC provide us little reprieve while we search relentlessly to quell our hysterias.

As COVID rages on, our brain synapses are relentlessly becoming indoctrinated with fear. Fear that if we forget to wear our masks or neglect our ritualistic routines with antibacterial hand soap, that we may disable our front-line defenses against respiratory droplets, effectively offering COVID-19 a backstage VIP Pass to our susceptible immune systems. And just when it seems that America is flattening the curve, and the fear is slowly subsiding, the peaks come back to haunt the valleys. With massive spikes arising in multiple states across the country, these pestilent pathogens offer us a deafening glimpse into our future. 

Festival planners have made mention of a potential “home testing kit” that would be sent to all attendees prior to an event. But how does that prevent the spread in an enclosed airplane, circulating recycled air, on the flight into town? How will they micromanage the asymptomatic, who show no symptoms, as the front gate plagues us with temperature checks at the door? How will organizers mitigate these complications and de-escalate our concerns to the point of comfortability, to ensure that the utmost is being done to protect ourselves and our investment? The wide array of frightening variables in this “equation of precaution” are unquantifiably difficult to calculate. 

So, as most of us wallow in the throes of existential dread, many of us wonder when life — and the festival scene — will ever return to a sense of normalcy. One can’t help but assume that life may never be the same again. As an EDM festival fan a question I often ask myself is “Will I ever feel comfortable at a crowded event in a post-pandemic world?” The answer is probably not. 

The best we can do, while we wait with baited breath for the rest of the world to take the lead, is to take care of ourselves. Take your Flintstones Vitamins. Go for walks or hikes. Stimulate your mind with mental acrobatics and strenuous activities. Build up your immune systems. Because the one thing this administration doesn’t seem to promote is preparing your body for intrusion, by making yourself indestructible from the inside out.

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