The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 affected nearly every aspect of life, but the touring industry was hit especially hard.
The nature of the virus made live concerts essentially untenable, leading music venues to close and countless tours postponed or canceled. A year without live music was already a depressingly unfathomable thought as the pandemic began to take hold, but it also came during a year that was going to be loaded with giant tours.
By the end of 2019, beloved, long-dormant bands including My Chemical Romance, Rage Against the Machine, The Black Crowes and Mötley Crüe had all announced plans for a 2020 reunion tour. Even Red Hot Chili Peppers got back together with their longtime on-again/off-again guitarist John Frusciante with intentions of returning to the road. All of those plans were postponed due to the pandemic.
Aside from the high-profile reunions, other big tours were also affected, such as Green Day‘s planned Hella Mega tour with Fall Out Boy and Weezer, which was pushed back to 2021. Other artists whose tours were either canceled or postponed included Foo Fighters, Billie Eilish, Pearl Jam, Paramore‘s Hayley Williams, Nickelback, and Disturbed.
Festival season was wiped out, as events such as Coachella and Bonnaroo initially postponed dates to the fall before eventually scrapping 2020 entirely.
As it became increasingly clear that live shows wouldn’t be coming back for some time, the concert industry moved online. What began as simple, free livestreams from artists’ own homes evolved into full-scale, paid productions you could watch from your couch from artists including the Foos, Eilish, Evanescence and Gorillaz.
The streaming world also brought forth new ideas and unique collaborations, such as Post Malone‘s Nirvana tribute set, featuring Blink-182‘s Travis Barker on drums.
Musicians would often use the streams to raise money for COVID-19 relief, especially for touring industry professionals who were unable to do their jobs.
While some artists used new technology to bring their music to fans, others looked back to a relic of the past: the drive-in theater. AJR and Skillet were among those who played drive-in shows in 2020, while Godsmack‘s Sully Erna and Staind‘s Aaron Lewis teamed up for a tour of drive-in venues.
Ever the innovators, Metallica filmed a new concert performance and screened it at drive-in theaters across the country. The Flaming Lips, meanwhile, tried out a mini concert with every audience member confined to their own “space bubble.” A full space bubble concert was announced for December, but even that was postponed due to the pandemic.
Here at the end of 2020, the future of live music remains unclear, though artists are continuing to announce new and rescheduled dates 2021. It’s safe to say, though, that whenever concerts do come back, people will be more than ready to rock out.
By Josh Johnson
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