For some who are vaccinated, ‘Summertime Chi’ finally arrives in the form of maskless, exclusive concerts

·3 min read

Elizabeth Lopez was hardly aware she still had on her Chicago flag-themed mask as she waited with friends Saturday afternoon outside a parking lot in the Hyde Park neighborhood.

But an hour later, the fully COVID-19-vaccinated 59-year-old from Jefferson Park was barefaced and merrily strolling through the crowd of about 70 other fully inoculated people as her favorite music genre — house — blared from the speakers. Hardly a mask was in sight among the audience, which was mostly seated or waiting for beverages. Some, though, got up and shuffled side-to-side in front of the white stage.

“Fall in love with the city again: That’s what I want people to do,” Lopez said about her hopes for the afternoon. “I kind of lost it awhile with all the craziness that was going on.”

Lopez was the first in line for the kickoff concert with the city’s “Protect Chicago Music Series,” billed as a monthly music event that is exclusive to people who are two weeks past their final coronavirus vaccine dose. Featuring DJs Ron Trent and Duane Powell, the event required attendees to bring their official vaccination card and an ID during will call to get a ticket.

“When they put this together for everyone that’s vaccinated, we rushed to get our tickets,” said Lopez’s friend Dean Bowie, a 57-year-old man from Chatham. “It eases the stress and burden of knowing or mitigating the risks. We understand who’s around you and what their status is.”

Usage of what some see as a “vaccine passport” for entry into events could be the norm this summer in Chicago and beyond. At least two long-awaited Chicago events — the Windy City Smokeout street festival and Lollapalooza — will require attendees to show proof of being vaccinated or a negative COVID-19 test. And earlier this month, the city began allowing late-night bars to operate past the 1 a.m. curfew if they only let in vaccinated patrons.

However, questions on the verification process remain as city health officials say they are still hammering out details for blockbuster events like Lollapalooza, including how to make sure forged cards don’t fool bouncers.

For Saturday’s event, there was plenty of room for a larger crowd, but attendees didn’t seem to mind. Some said they were simply drawn to the headliners and wanted a more laid-back experience for their first concert since the pandemic’s start.

The subdued but attentive audience was a sort of tease to the larger rock band performances Dustin Smallheer hopes to attend later this summer, he said. It also didn’t stop him from getting up from time to time to sway to one of his favorite artists, DJ Ron Trent.

“I needed to dance,” Smallheer, a 40-year-old from Lakeview, said. “I like being around people and feeling the energy you get from music and joy, and we haven’t had a lot of that in the last year and a half.”

Leah Castleberry, a 28-year-old from South Shore, said Saturday wasn’t quite what she expected for her first concert in more than a year. She’s an avid enjoyer of live house music, and there seemed to be something missing in the atmosphere.

But Chicago will get there, she said.

“I think it’s going to take some time because we’re all just readjusting, getting back into the swing of things,” Castleberry said. “‘Summertime Chi’ is finally here.”

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