Germany’s traditional festivals “Rock am Ring” and “Rock im Park” had actually planned their anniversary editions last year. But then Corona came and all major events were canceled: no “Fusion”, no “Hurricane”, no “Wacken Open Air”. Everything postponed to 2021.
The situation has hardly improved since then, on the contrary. Germany is in the middle of a lockdown, and festivals with tens of thousands of people partying are a rather absurd idea at the moment. The longing is still enormous, and many fans are wondering: Is there still a chance for a festival summer in 2021?
“There are still a lot of question marks,” says Stephan Thanscheidt from the organizer FKP Scorpio. “We also have to wait and see how the number of infections and the availability of vaccines develop.” The organizer organizes the “Hurricane” (Scheeßel / Lower Saxony) and the “Southside” (Neuhausen ob Eck / Baden-Württemberg). This year the twin festival is supposed to take place from June 18th to 20th. “It’s still too early for specific announcements. We can certainly say more in four to six weeks, ”says Thanscheidt.
The situation remains unclear
A week earlier, on the second weekend in June, the 35th edition of “Rock am Ring” at the Nürburgring and the 25th “Rock im Park” in Nuremberg are planned. Performances by headliners such as Green Day, System Of A Down and Volbeat have been postponed from last year to 2021. And more than 130,000 visitors have already exchanged their tickets from 2020 for this year. Here, too, it is said that one wants to wait for “the concrete developments”. “That is why it is only possible to make a statement about the event at a later point in time,” said the organizers of eventimpresents and Live Nation.
The situation in Wacken in Schleswig-Holstein is also unclear. Usually tens of thousands of metal fans from all over the world flock to the northern German province every year in midsummer to celebrate at the “Wacken Open Air” (W: O: A). Last year it was unusually quiet in the tranquil village. But will basses be booming again this year in the meadows and cow pastures? At least the countdown is running on the festival site: “183 days left” it was a Wednesday at the end of January. Among other things, Rammstein singer Till Lindemann has announced his first solo festival show.
“We have seen a lot in over 30 years at Wacken, but of course no one can predict an exact forecast for the pandemic situation in the summer,” says co-founder Thomas Jensen. “The current planning is in full swing despite short-time working, and we hope that the government measures will take effect and a return to live events in summer will be possible.” He emphasizes that health and safety are the top priority.
Festivals cannot be held with distance rules
“There is currently great uncertainty,” explains the President of the Federal Association of the Concert and Event Industry, Jens Michow. “As long as distance rules are necessary, very small events can be carried out economically.” And: “For the summer festivals, we will need decisions by mid-March at the latest as to the form in which they can take place, because they need a minimum time to prepare.”
According to Michow, the industry used the autumn and winter to create possible concepts. In his assessment, comprehensive infection protection measures, such as rapid tests, will first be a prerequisite for attending the event. He also hopes for political support here. To what extent rapid tests can be carried out on “so many people” at large festivals remains to be checked. The next problem is international booking, so it is completely unclear whether bands and artists from England or the USA could come to Germany.
The live industry is an industry that has been particularly hard hit by Corona. The business has been virtually shut down since March. Not only the musicians are affected, but of course also all the people behind the scenes – whether sound engineers, stage builders, caterers, lighting technicians or bus drivers. The German Event Association also recently pointed out the “continuing dramatic situation” in the industry.
To support the crew members, German artists such as Die Fantastischen Vier, Joy Denalane, Milky Chance and Peter Maffay recently launched the virtual #lightener festival. They waived their fee and called for donations for the crews: more than 850,000 euros have already been collected.
In general, some artists have recently switched to streaming concerts, for example US singer Billie Eilish or the Korean boy band BTS. But can the virtual appearance in the living room at home replace the live experience – for example at a large music festival? “No chance,” says Michow. “There is no smell, the atmosphere, the closeness to the artist and the togetherness of the fans, none of that the screen can deliver.”