Golf buggies delivering drinks and metal pens instead of mosh pits are not typical features of rock concerts — but will be crucial additions at the first major music festival held in Adelaide since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Key points:

  • The Summer Sounds Festival starts in Adelaide on Friday
  • The audience will be split into pods to enable social distancing
  • Artists are keen to perform in front of crowds after a long break

After months of negotiations with SA Health, organisers of the Summer Sounds Festival have been granted permission to stage the three-week event in Bonython Park.

Artists such as Lime Cordiale, Ruel, Ball Park Music, Mallrat and Ocean Alley feature on the festival’s line-up, which will be headlined by Bernard Fanning and also include 2000s bands Something for Kate, Spiderbait and Jebediah.

The key innovation will be groups of concert-goers splitting into dozens of “pods” which will include between four and six people.

Event director Daniel Michael said the idea was based on so-called “pig pens” which were a feature of concerts held in the UK in the northern summer.

“Heaps of people sent me photos of something that was happening in Newcastle in the UK and I thought we’d never do that, it’d cost too much, there’s no way,” he said.

How will it work?

Up to 2,000 music fans will attend the concerts each night until January 31, spread across 10,000 square metres.

“It’s basically 2,000 VIPs,” Mr Michael said.

The series of concerts runs from January 8–31.(Supplied)

Tickets are sold in groups of four or six, and then those people have to stay within their pod for the duration of the concert, apart from going to buy food or go the toilet.

Inside each pod, fans will be allowed to eat, drink and dance.

“We’ve been working with SA Health for months now just to get it right, to make it COVID-safe and to make it safe for people to dance and to drink.”

People attending the concerts are given a 15-minute window to arrive to avoid queues developing, and will be issued a wristband with their pod number, so every person at the event will be traceable.

The stage being put into place at Bonython Park.(Facebook: Summer Sounds Festival)

Fanning to isolate when offstage

The festival was originally set to start on December 30, but was delayed until January 8 because of travel restrictions between New South Wales and South Australia, in response to Sydney’s coronavirus outbreaks.

“We’ve had to reprogram the dates a couple of times because of clusters in various states but here we are and we’re opening on Friday,” Mr Michael said.

“All of us have taken a risk, all of us have got together and thought how can we get this industry going.”

Headline act Bernard Fanning has been granted an SA Health exemption to travel from Byron Bay for the festival, as SA currently has a hard border closure with NSW.

Bernard Fanning (right) performs with Powderfinger in 2010.(AAP: Tracey Nearmy)

Mr Michael said as part of the exemption, the former Powderfinger frontman would have to self-isolate when not performing in a venue that had no shared facilities or lifts, and would have to wear a mask except while performing.

He said there was still a possibility of individual shows being cancelled, especially if artists could not attend because of any changes to border restrictions.

Model for the future?

Adelaide band TOWNS will perform its first “normal” show since February on Friday as a support act to The Jungle Giants.

Aston Valladares said he and bandmate Daniel Steinert would “go harder” to make up for the spread-out crowd.

“It’s definitely going to be an adjustment, but I’m excited because it’s a challenge and challenges are fun,” Valladares said.

TOWNS band members Aston Valladares and Daniel Steinert.(ABC News: Claire Campbell)

Mr Michael said he was excited to be putting on the new festival at a time when most others were being cancelled or scaled back.

He said he hoped, and expected, that the idea of pods would catch on.

“People want to see music — they want to enjoy themselves — so we’ve just been looking at ways we can do it and be safe,” he said.

“It’s also heart-warming to see people who’ve had their careers crunched by the pandemic to be able to work again.

Groups of four to six people can enjoy the music within their pods.(ABC News)