Live events return to Corvallis venues with COVID-19 modifications

A member of the local band Minor Anomaly rocks out at Bombs Away Café in Corvallis, Ore. the night of Oct. 22. Bombs Away has recently begun hosting live events again after having to stop shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lara Rivera, News Contributor

Music venues like Bombs Away Café and Whiteside Theatre have recently reopened their doors to live events for the first time in a year and a half. 

Bombs Away has been hosting live shows for nearly 30 years, at least until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.

Owner of Bombs Away Café Jeffery Sawyer reopened the restaurant’s doors to live shows in July of 2021. However, he was forced to stop the shows again due to rising cases from the COVID-19 Delta variant in Benton County. 

In October, Sawyer was able to begin live events once again with the Rocktober lineup, which included a drag show, comedy open mic and a variety of bands.

To accomodate for COVID-19, Bombs Away checks people for masks at the door, although they do not require vaccinations or negative COVID-19 tests. 

At Bombs Away, there is a variety of live music shows such as hip-hop, dance music, heavy metal and country folk Americana with jazz shows taking place once a month. Sawyer is aiming to be inclusive and keep Bombs Away open to any kind of music for “all interests.”

Performers Jasper Eckert and Zahuma Keith are excited to be back on the stage at Bombs Away. Both Eckert and Keith have been performing pre-COVID-19, since 2012. 

“I’ve been nervous about crowds a little bit,” Eckert said. 

On the other hand, Keith feels that returning to live music events has been very similar to pre-COVID-19 times. 

“It’s very much back to a similar degree of how it was before COVID-19, like everything seems to be back to normal in my mind, but there is still that lasting, like, people have anxiety or crowds aren’t as big,” Keith said.

Whiteside Theatre owner and Oregon State University alumnus Jen Waters is opening doors back up for live music in Corvallis as well. The theatre—which was originally built in 1922 and rebuilt after a fire in the 1940s—has transitioned from showing silent movies, to talkies, to live shows and movies. 

Waters has incorporated a COVID-19 safety protocol that is reinforced by their new safety officer position. Whiteside Theatre safety protocol requires people to wear masks indoors and have proof of a COVID-19 vaccine card—either physically or a picture of it—or a negative COVID-19 test from the past 48 hours. Proof of vaccination is not required for their movie showings, though masks indoors still are.

Waters explained their COVID-19 policy is to keep the audience safe as their shows tend to be for all ages. Since Whiteside shut down their live music in March 2020, Waters said October marked the first time they were able to feature live events in earnest. However, in between those dates, Waters said they were still able to have some scattered movie showings, in accordance with COVID-19 measures.

After the start of the pandemic, Whiteside Theatre received a Shutter Venues Operators Grant, which is a federal grant established through the Economic Aid for Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act.

Due to concerns from the Corvallis Fire Department, Whiteside Theatre is continuing live events with limited capacity and installing a professional fire alarm system. Whiteside is a 7,000 square foot theatre with 800 seats, which Waters said makes distancing easier. 

Though live events are not exactly the same as they were before the pandemic, local performers, Bombs Away and Whiteside Theatre are excited to safely facilitate the return of stage performances. 

“The energy is definitely back,” Eckert said.