Forty Acres Fest Brings Live Music Back to Campus
By ANDRÉS GARCIA
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — Live music returned to the University of Texas campus last weekend for the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020.
Forty Acres Fest, an annual concert organized by Campus Events + Entertainment, took place April 10. The four-hour-long midday festival was somewhat of a departure from the way the festival is normally organized.
Campus Events + Entertainment president Katherine Byers oversaw the planning process for Forty Acres Fest.
“A lot of committees [within Campus E+E] have changed their event-planning process specifically because of COVID,” Byers said.
Normally, between eight and 12 artists perform at Forty Acres Fest, including a recognizable headliner. The festival is also usually split into daytime and evening festivities, with local and student artists during the day while a headliner and opening act perform at night.
This year’s festival had only two musical acts, who both performed during the day. UT student Susannah Joffe was one of the two artists who took the stage.
“It’s very validating to have people reach out to me about representing UT in that way,” Joffe said.
The organizers staged the food and drink booths in a grab-and-go format that kept attendees moving throughout the plaza so as to prevent crowding. Event coordinators also required attendees to social distance and wear masks except when inside a designated eating areas.
The risks that come with organizing in-person gatherings were not lost on Tiffany Chung, Chairperson of UT Headliners, one of the two committees within UT Events + Entertainment that organized Forty Acres Fest.
“We were really making sure that we were following the safety precautions,” Chung said.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, artists and organizers have sought alternatives to live and in-person concerts. Livestreams and pre-taped concerts became commonplace for many, including Joffe.
“I think they were a really sweet idea… but [performing live] is really rewarding, especially if you’re a smaller artist like me and you don’t have millions of Spotify streams to validate you,” Joffe said.
This was her first time performing at an in-person university-sponsored event. For many underclassmen, especially for freshmen such as Samyam Lohani, this was the first opportunity to attend such an event.
“Music was definitely one of the things that drew me towards Austin in the first place, so seeing it on campus makes me feel a lot more present here than it usually would,” Lohani said.
The artists, organizers, and consumers all hope to gradually reintroduce live music into daily life, but uncertainties regarding health safety protocols remain.
“I definitely think that for the foreseeable future everyone should have proof of vaccination before going into any large-scale events or concerts or anything,” Joffe said.
Although she and other view this as a common-sense decision, not everyone is favor of mandatory COVID-19 vaccines. The Texas governor issued a ban on vaccine passports for the university and other institutions that receive state funding.
With vaccination rollout progressing, however, UT Events + Entertainment will continue to gradually reintroduce COVID-safe versions of live events on campus while providing remote and virtual alternatives for those who do not wish to attend in-person gatherings.