With major festivals like Coachella postponed and others like South by Southwest canceled outright, thousands of industry jobs have been impacted. Artists are keeping the music going online, but those behind these sorts of major live music events are contributing in even bigger ways. As the Los Angeles Times reports, production companies usually hired for large-scale tours and festivals are using their knowledge and resources to build hospital tents, protective gear, and more for coronavirus frontliners.
It turns out there isn’t a giant difference between putting together Coachella’s Mojave tent and constructing triage or overflow structures for hospitals. Production firms Choura Events and Gallagher Staging are both usually responsible for constructing stages and tents on the Empire Polo Club grounds. They’ve quickly shifted gears to provide hospitals with everything from HVAC systems to raised floors for emergency structures. The work they’re doing will help hospitals manage the predicted influx of COVID-19 patients as the pandemic’s curve continues to crest.
“We pivoted so fast to being a rapid-response disaster relief team. If I didn’t know how to do Coachella, I couldn’t do this hospital,” Choura Events founder Ryan Choura at the Fountain Valley Regional Medical Center told the Times. “I saw patients coming in here and saw what they looked like. This is real, and we’ve got to move.”
Event production on the scale of a major music festival requires an ability to adapt quickly to trying demands. With no such demands coming from the concert industry at the moment, teams have been able to put their skills to use for the greater good — even doing so largely at cost.
“We deal with an industry where if we’re not fixing things ahead of the curve, the concert’s not happening. So we figured we had a lot to offer in this emergency,” said Robin Shaw, co-founder of the LA- and Chicago-based Upstaging. The firm usually constructs stages for Post Malone, Billie Eilish, Pearl Jam, and Roger Waters, but now they’re building face shields and room dividers. “We started looking at what the immediate need was and we’ve been making face shields for two weeks,” she added. “Our shop makes metal for sets and we can build just about anything.”
Of course, there are still larger issues facing the medical professionals battling the coronavirus. Production companies can’t do much about the shortfall of ventilators and other medical equipment. And even what they can and want to do is a challenge when there’s no infrastructure in place to help them make the pivot to providing assistance.
“We’d love to help larger hospitals, but it’s hard to get to one person who can make a decision and say yes,” noted Shaw. They’ve been using social media to spread word of their ability to help, while also reaching otu to local government officials.
Added Gallagher, “There’s definitely been a learning curve. We could use some guidance as far as what a medical practice room would be, and we wish there was one organization that we can directly communicate with to offer services.” However, he also noted that while it’s “definitely a whole new environment,” it’s “also what we’re used to: adapting.”
Pitching in is more than just about keeping busy for these workers. “It’s bringing good into a really bad situation,” said Choura. “I’ve got 14 guys on this site building who would be sitting at home. I’ve been more fulfilled over the last few weeks than over the last decade. It’s very meaningful to feel like you’re part of saving a life.”
Shaw expressed similar sentiments, stating in conclusion,
“We can’t wait to get back to the concert business, because we love it. Sometimes I go to bed crying at night. But we got a message from a woman in elder care wearing one of our masks, that said this was going to save people’s lives. I sat there and said, ‘This is unbelievable, this might help people not die.’”
Music fans can do their part by staying home and enjoying the new Coachella documentary set to air on YouTube on April 10th. As it stands now, the festival itself is scheduled to take place in October.