By Donovan Roche
As with so many other businesses, the music industry continues to struggle amidst the coronavirus. From large, national music festivals to small, local clubs, the shutdown is threatening the livelihood of event producers and venue operators, as well as the artists who perform there. In this installment of a continuing series, we’ll look at what some are doing to keep the music alive.
Go Big or Stay Home
While some of 2020’s major festivals have outright cancelled (South by Southwest, Coachella), others are shifting to a virtual platform. For example, Inside Lands (the offshoot of Outside Lands) debuted on Twitch in late August while Bonnaroo’s “Virtual ROO-ALITY” will offer a free three-night broadcast on YouTube, Sept. 24-26. In addition to performances from past fests — such as Beastie Boys, Metallica, The White Stripes and My Morning Jacket — the event will feature appearances by numerous artists, including Chromeo, Charli XCX and Nathaniel Rateliff.
Del Mar Drive In
Concerts in Your Car — a drive-in series of concerts hosted at the Del Mar Fairgrounds — starts up on Sept. 25 with a show by reggae-rockers Dirty Heads. The venue will feature nine parking areas surrounding the stage, with per-car tickets ranging from $99 (“far from the stage”) to $229 (“optimum viewing”). Dirty Heads will perform two shows: 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Other acts on the calendar include DJ Snoopadelic (Oct. 4), Slightly Stoopid (Oct. 10) and The Beach Boys (Oct. 24). For tickets and more information go here.
Back to the Farms
As part of its Live From Home series of livestreams, Live Nation will celebrate the 35th anniversary of Farm Aid with a virtual festival on Sept. 26 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific time. Farm Aid 2020 On the Road will include performances from more than 20 artists, including Willie Nelson and The Boys, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, and Dave Matthews. In addition to the performances, Farm Aid will conduct an online silent auction featuring artist-signed memorabilia and more, with proceeds benefitting the organization. You can also donate year-round.
On Oct. 3, peace, love and music lovers can return to Yasgur’s farm for Woodstock 51, a livestreamed “storyconcert” celebrating the 51st anniversary of Woodstock. Featuring music by Back to the Garden, the event will benefit Catalina Island’s only hospital.
While many artists have delayed their new releases in anticipation of a time when they can be more easily marketed, others are charging forward. Bruce Springsteen surprised many with his latest, Letter to You, recorded live in the studio with the E Street Band. Music fans can also look forward to new albums from The Flaming Lips (American Head), Alicia Keys (Alicia), Keith Urban (The Speed of Now Part 1) and Sam Smith (Love Goes).
In creative twists to album release parties, South African electronica/dance group Goldfish will celebrate their new single, “Forever Free” and the vinyl release of 2006’s Caught in the Loop with a livestreamed show from the Belly Up on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. Pacific time. And then, Baltimore’s Future Islands will livestream a concert from their hometown on Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. Pacific, performing tracks from their new release, As Long As You Are. Tickets for each event are $15.
This is the second in a series on the impact COVID-19 is having on the music industry and what it’s doing to stay connected with fans.
Donovan Roche is a veteran music journalist of more than 34 years.