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AN UNUSUAL EXPERIMENT was performed at a trio of pop concerts in Leipzig, Germany, on August 22, 2020. Tim Bendzko and his band performed at a 12,000-seat arena, but unlike the Trumpery of helter-skelter rallies, they performed in the interest of science, not in its defiance. 

Science magazine, August 28, 2020, describes “Pop Concertgoers Help Test Virus Risk.” The New York Times, August 23, 2020, offers added details in “To Test Spread of Coronavirus, These Scientists Put on a Concert.” Here are tidbits from these two articles, together with my usual Internet sleuthing.

Tim Bendzko. Tim took top honors at the 2011 Bundevision Song Contest as well as the Bambi newcomer award that same year. Bundesvision is the 16 German states’ version of the Eurovision Song Contest. 

Tim Benzko, East Berlin-born 1985, German singer-song writer. Image by Andreas Lawen. Here’s a sample of his pre-Covid-19 cavorting.

Tim and his band have performed as openers for the likes of Joe Cocker and Elton John. His albums have Gold and Platinum accolades from BVMI (the Bundesverband Musikindustrie, Germany’s Federal Music Industry Association) and other Golds in Austria and Switzerland.

Tim Bendzko and his band at the Quarterback Immobilien Arena in Leipzig, August 22, 2020. This and the following images by Gordon Welters for The New York Times.

A Controlled Venue. Researchers from Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg established test parameters for the three Leipzig concerts. The purpose was to assess conditions under which such events could be carried out safely despite the pandemic.

Dr. Stefan Mortiz, lead researcher of Restart 19.

Some 1500 concertgoers, ages between 18 and 50, volunteered to take part in the study called Restart 19 at Leipzig’s Quarterback Immobilien Arena. 

Quarterback Immobilien Arena, maximum capacity of 12,000.

All participants were tested to be Covid-free and given temperature checks before the event. They were given face masks and tracking devices to measure social distancing. Fluorescent-tagged disinfectant on their hands gave researchers a means of identifying which venue surfaces were touched the most.

Concert special effects served dual purpose: The smoke also traced air circulation throughout the venue.

Scientists used smoke machines and carbon dioxide sensors to trace the movement of air throughout the arena. The three concerts were held under increasingly stringent controls: Three patterns of entering and leaving the hall were assessed. Social distancing increased to 1.5 meters (about 5 ft.), with the third concert halving the audience count.

Different patterns of social distancing were explored.

Good Times, Good Data. Lead researcher Dr. Stefan Mortiz said, “…we have good quality data, the mood is great, and we are extremely satisfied with the discipline in wearing masks and using disinfectant.”

 “We really enjoyed it,” Tim Bendzko said. “At first I thought it would be very sterile because of the masks, but it felt surprisingly good. I hope that these results will help us to hold real concerts in front of an audience again soon.”

Tim told his audience, “On this day, you are saviors of the world.”

Researchers hope to release results of their study by early October. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020

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