No Country Guide to 2020’s Changing Music Festival Landscape

Festivals2020-620Photo by Andrew Ha.

In the wake of of today’s announcement that Bonnaroo 2020 has been postponed to September, along with similar news that Atlanta’s Shaky Knees is moving to October, both coming after weeks of other festival news like the cancelation of Austin’s SXSW and Knoxville’s Big Ears, and the high-profile postponement of Coachella, we’ve decided to put together a partial guide to the 2020 music festival season, where you can more easily track cancellations, postponements, and events still scheduled to go on as planned, as well as conveniently scope out the updated calendar of dates.

It’s an unprecedented moment in American history (and a hard time for many who rely on live music for their livelihood), and as the situation with COVID-19 and the timetable necessary to combat it changes each day, it is important to be patient while each event works hard to determine what is the best decision for public safety. It’s still unclear when we can expect a return to normalcy, but at this point, the remaining spring events seem all but guaranteed to shift or cancel, as early summer begins to clear out as well. Not every festival will find a new date, and the ones that do may have slightly altered lineups, but we’re hoping that at the end of all of this, all will be in a position to return in 2021 despite the financial and logistical burden of these changes.

This is not a complete list of every American festival, but, rather, a rundown on most music fests local and regional to Nashville, along with some of our favorite national events that we watch and occasionally attend each season. Like the festivals themselves, the scope of our 2020 coverage at this point remains uncertain, but we hope, like many of you, to be back out and enjoying music festivals in a few months. We’ll do our best to keep this list updated, but for the latest information, hit the link at the end of each listing.

3/23: Updated information for Double Decker Arts Festival, Beale Street Music Festival, Homecoming, & Riverbend Festival.

3/24: Updated information for Firefly Music Festival, which has been canceled, and new dates for Double Decker Arts Festival.

3/26: Updated information for The Governor’s Ball, which has been canceled.

3/27: Updated postponement information for Beale Street Music Fest.

3/31: Updated cancelation information for CMA Fest and Boston Calling.

4/1: Updated cancelation, pending postponement information for Hangout Fest.

4/3: Updated cancelation info for The National’s Homecoming Festival in Cincinnati.

4/7: Updated cancelation info for Bunbury and BUKU (which had previously been postponed).

4/16: Updated cancelation info for New Orleans Jazz Fest (originally postponed), Hangout Fest (had previously explored postponement), and Forecastle Fest.

4/21: Updated cancelation info for New Orleans’ Voodoo Fest, the latest calendar cancelation we’ve seen so far.

4/24: Updated cancelation info for Hometown Rising, Louder Than Life, and Bourbon & Beyond, all in Louisville.

4/25: Updated cancelation info for Musicians Corner’s spring season.

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CANCELED: SXSW (Austin, TX) – originally March 13-22 [more]

CANCELED: BUKU Music + Art Project (New Orleans, LA) – originally March 20-21; briefly postponed to Sept. 4-6 before cancelation [more]

CANCELED: Big Ears Festival (Knoxville, TN) – originally March 26-29 [more]

CANCELED: Rites of Spring (Nashville,TN) – originally April 17-18 [more]

CANCELED: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (New Orleans, LA) – originally April 23-May 3; briefly postponed without a date before cancelation [more]

CANCELED: Sweetwater 420 Fest (Atlanta, GA) – originally April 24-26 [more]

CANCELED: Shaky Boots (Atlanta, GA) – originally May 8-9 [more]

CANCELED: Homecoming (Cincinnati, OH) – originally May 8-9 [more]

CANCELED: Musicians Corner – Spring Season (Nashville, TN) – originally May – June 27 [more]

CANCELED: Hangout Music Festival (Gulf Shores, AL) – originally May 15-17 [more]

POSTPONED: Riverbend Festival (Chattanooga, TN) – originally May 27-30; new dates TBA [more]

CANCELED: Boston Calling (Boston, MA) – originally May 28-30 [more]

CANCELED: CMA Fest (Nashville, TN) – originally June 4-7 [more]

CANCELED: The Governor’s Ball Music Festival (New York, NY) – originally June 5-7 [more]

CANCELED: Bunbury Music Festival (Cincinnati, OH) – originally June 5-7 [more]

STILL SCHEDULED: Muddy Roots Spring Weekender (Nashville, TN) – June 12-13 [more]

CANCELED: Firefly Music Festival (Dover, DE) – originally June 18-21 [more]

CANCELED: Forecastle Festival (Louisville, KY) – originally July 17-19 [more]

STILL SCHEDULED: Pitchfork Music Festival (Chicago, IL) – July 17-19 [more]

STILL SCHEDULED: Lollapalooza (Chicago, IL) – July 30-Aug. 2 [more]

POSTPONED: Double Decker Arts Festival (Oxford, MS) – originally April 24-25; now Aug. 14-15 [more]

STILL SCHEDULED: Live on the Green (Nashville, TN) – Aug. 20-Sept. 6 [more]

STILL SCHEDULED: Railbird Festival (Lexington, KY) – Aug. 22-23 [more]

STILL SCHEDULED: Muddy Roots Music Festival (Cookeville, TN) – Sept. 3-6 [more]

STILL SCHEDULED: Riot Fest (Chicago, IL) – Sept. 11-13 [more]

STILL SCHEDULED: Moon River Music Festival (Chattanooga, TN) – Sept. 12-13 [more]

CANCELED: Hometown Rising Country Music & Bourbon Festival (Louisville, KY) – originally Sept. 12-13 [more]

CANCELED: Louder Than Life (Louisville, KY) – originally Sept. 17-20 [more]

STILL SCHEDULED: Furnace Fest (Birmingham, AL) – Sept. 18-20 [more]

STILL SCHEDULED: Music Midtown (Atlanta, GA) – Sept. 19-20 [more]

POSTPONED: Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival (Manchester, TN) – originally June 11-14; now Sept. 24-27 [more]

CANCELED: Bourbon & Beyond (Louisville, KY) – originally Sept. 25-27 [more]

STILL SCHEDULED: Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival (Franklin, TN) – Sept. 26-27 [more]

STILL SCHEDULED: Nashville Boogie Vintage Weekender (Nashville, TN) – Oct. 2-4 [more]

STILL SCHEDULED: Austin City Limits Music Festival (Austin, TX) – Oct. 2-4 + 9-11 [more]

POSTPONED: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (Indio, CA) – originally April 10-12 + 17-19; now Oct. 9-11 + 16-18 [more]

POSTPONED: Shaky Knees (Atlanta, GA) – originally May 1-3; now Oct. 16-18 [more]

POSTPONED: Beale Street Music Festival (Memphis, TN) – originally May 1-3; now Oct. 16-18 [more]

CANCELED: Voodoo Music + Arts Experience (New Orleans, LA) – originally Oct. 30-Nov. 1 [more]

STILL SCHEDULED: The Fest (Gainesville, FL) – Oct. 30-Nov. 1 [more]

Bonnaroo Reschedules for Sept. 24-27

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It’s been an unprecedented few weeks in Nashville, the world, and the music community. As we struggle still to recover and rebuild from the devastating tornado earlier this month, and as the spread of COVID-19 has all but ground daily life to a halt, displacing countless members of the work force, and all but bringing the live music industry to a standstill, we’re doing our best to try to navigate what the immediate few months will look like.

At a crucial time when all large gatherings should be strictly avoided, it’s been inevitable to see every early season and spring music festival already cancel or postpone, and as we get an ever-changing picture of how long our social distancing should last, and how far-reaching the effects will be, summer festivals are beginning to cancel and shift preemptively as well. Given the latest estimated timeframes, and the clearing out of May events, we suspected June would soon follow, and now we have definitive confirmation that this year’s Bonnaroo, scheduled for June 11-14 in Manchester, TN, has officially been moved to a new weekend in the fall: Sept. 24-27.

Not every festival has the opportunity or logistical feasibility to find a new date, and given this year’s exciting lineup (and the fact that it sold out quicker than any prior year in festival history), we’re incredibly happy to see ‘Roo still find a way to make things happen (even if it does not land in an ever-crowding fall timeframe, which currently overlaps with fellow local event Pilgrimage Festival). It’s unclear at this moment how the lineup will change (based on other festivals making similar moves, expect the bulk of the time line artists to perform, with some likely changes in the mid and smaller bill), but we’ll keep you updated as news develops.

Here’s a statement from the festival:

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival will be rescheduled to take place September 24-27, 2020 out of an abundance of caution and for the health and safety of all Bonnaroovians, artists, staff and our community.

All current tickets and onsite accommodations (camping, tent rentals, RV, etc.) will be honored for the new weekend. Fans with off-site accommodations and shuttles purchased through the festival will be contacted directly with updates.

Rest assured, we will share updates as quickly as possible via email, our website, and on our social accounts.

Please continue to radiate positivity through this uncharted time in our world. Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you on The Farm this fall.

– ❤️ Bonnaroo

Tickets to this year’s Bonnaroo are currently sold out, but we’ll keep you posted if more are announced to open up in light of the change. We hope you’re all staying healthy and safe, and our hearts go out to the local music community in particular in this challenging time.

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The Killers to Play Bridgestone Arena Sept. 19 with Johnny Marr | Hear New Single “Caution”

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Though we’ve had the pleasure of catching their epic headlining sets at nearby festivals like Bonnaroo, Forecastle, and Pilgrimage over the past couple of summers, it’s been seven long years since beloved Las Vegas alt/post-punk outfit The Killers headlined Nashville proper. Then out in support of 2012’s Battle Born, the band released another whole album, 2017’s Wonderful Wonderful since, and in recent times have seemingly undergone something of a resurgence in popular interest, falling simultaneously into millennial mid-’00s nostalgia, while managing to attract a passionate new generation of fans. That said, it feels like there hasn’t been this much anticipation for a new Killer albums since perhaps 2008’s Day & Age, and judging by brand new single “Caution” (hear it below), our first taste of forthcoming sixth LP Imploding the Mirage, due out May 29, the band have perhaps their best effort in years at the ready. Apparently set to include guests like Lindsey Buckingham (who plays the killer guitar solo on “Caution”), Weyes Blood, Adam Granduciel (The War on Drugs), k.d. lang, Blake Mills, and Lucius, the album was produced by the band in conjunction with Shawn Everett and Jonathan Rado of Foxygen, and marks the first work written and recorded since leaving their hometown of Las Vegas.

Of course, with a new LP comes a new crop of live dates, as the band (while, like other artists, announcing their intention to monitor the Coronavirus situation) have expanded their world tour to include a lengthy summer run of North America, bringing them back to Music City Sept. 19 to headline Bridgestone Arena with the one and only Johnny Marr (whose legendary group The Smiths is certainly a strong influence on The Killers’ sound). Tickets are set to go on sale Friday, March 20 at 10 a.m. CDT right here, with pre-sales beginning March 18 (we’ll update with more details once we have them). Bridgestone is an impressive venue for the group, who last played the Grand Ole Opry House, but given their renewed buzz as of late, we expect tickets to go fast!

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Wilco & Sleater-Kinney to Play Ascend Amphitheater Aug. 16

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Two acts who both made their way to Nashville for the first time in several years last year, Wilco and Sleater-Kinney have announced a co-headlining summer tour, which brings them both back sooner than expected to headline Ascend Amphitheater on Aug. 16!

Celebrating their first album in three years, last fall’s Ode to Joy, Chicago alt rockers Wilco (who headed up the Grand Ole Opry House late last year) have become one of the most beloved and dynamic acts of the last 25 years, churning out a steady and beloved breadth of work which has seen them waver from folk to more indie geared rock over the years. Meanwhile, seminal Washington punks Sleater-Kinney spent almost a decade apart after a seminal early run in the ’90s and ’00s, returning in 2014 and since releasing two LPs, most recently last year’s The Center Won’t Hold (in support of which they played The Ryman last fall, just one day after Wilco’s Opry stop), which notably saw the departure of longtime drummer Janet Weiss.

Though distinctly different, both bands can trace their roots back to the punk scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s, and rose to acclaim around the same time. Even the name of the tour, It’s Time, suggests a long-time mutual admiration between the two groups (notably, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein have both found fame beyond their respective bands, in acting, authorship, collaborative and side ventures, and more), so while a bit unexpected, they make for one of the coolest summer pairings of the year.

 Tickets for the groups’ Nashville stop, which feature support from NNAMDÏ, are set to go on sale this Friday, March 13 at 10 a.m. CDT right here, which pre-sales underway now using the code ‘ODE’!

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Knoxville’s 2020 Big Ears Festival Canceled Due to Coronavirus Concerns

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As the United States struggles to manage the growing number of cases of Coronavirus/COVID-19 rapidly spreading across the nation, including here in Tennessee, large-scale public events, including early season music festivals, are falling subject to cancelation or postponement seemingly each day.

Already, Miami’s March Ultra Festival was “postponed to 2021,” and Austin’s March SXSW was outright canceled for the first time ever, while Southern California’s Coachella was just moved from May to October. And as we look ahead on the calendar at more regional events, there’s no word yet on April’s New Orleans Jazz Fest, or May events Hangout Fest (Gulf Shores, AL), Beale Street Music Fest (Memphis), or Shaky Knees (Atlanta). (Expect later season events like Bonnaroo and CMA Fest in June, Forecastle in July, Live on the Green in August and September, and Pilgrimage in September to assess the situation as long as they can before making a call, unless things begin to rapidly worsen or  they’re pushed by government or external pressure.)

Unfortunately, one local fest- the kick off of the season- has just become Tennessee’s first COVID-19 related music festival cancelation, only two days after announcing otherwise: Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival, which was set to take place in just a few short weeks, March 26-29. As we mentioned earlier this year, the boutique fest is an absolute hidden gem amidst a crowded festival landscape, and this year’s lineup, which was set to feature Patti Smith, Thundercat, John Paul Jones, and many more (often worldly, lesser-known) artists, blending music, film, art, and community engagement, and hosting a genre-defying array of performers in all kinds of conventional and unorthodox spaces, was poised to be one of the season’s coolest outings.

Unlike some other postponed and canceled events, which seem to be attempting to lock fans into exchanging their tickets for a future year, Big Ears will be refunding ticketholders outright, despite expressing a hope that the event might be able to regroup and take place later in 2020.

Read a statement from founder/executive director Ashley Capps below:

It has become clear that we must cancel Big Ears 2020, scheduled for the weekend of Thursday, March 26 thru Sunday, March 29.

Just 48 hours ago, we were optimistic that there was a path forward; but with events surrounding COVID-19 developing rapidly along with the obvious need for urgent steps to contain its spread, we simply cannot move forward with the festival as scheduled.

This has been a tough decision. Not only is the principle that “the show must go on” woven into our DNA, but the impact of this cancellation on the community that makes Big Ears possible — the artists, the festival attendees, our staff and production teams, and the Knoxville community with all of its businesses and workers — cannot be overstated.

We will be offering refunds to all ticket purchasers (assuming you purchased your tickets from our authorized vendor, Front Gate). Within the next day or two, we will be emailing ticket holders with information about the process for securing your refund.

We are grateful to those of you who have inquired about converting your ticket purchase to a tax-deductible donation. This is indeed possible and we will include details about that option as well.

We are very grateful for the kind words and support that we have received from so many of you. We believe in Albert Ayler’s proclamation that “music is the healing force of the universe” with all of our heart and soul. A mere two weeks ago, the New York Times called Big Ears “…one of the world’s greatest music bashes.”  We will be back to live up to that accolade as soon as we possibly can. At the moment, it is too early for us to assess if we may be able to reschedule the festival for sometime later in 2020; for now, we need to pause and refocus.

These are difficult times. We urge you to stay healthy and do whatever you can to help one another and to make this a better world. We’re counting on you.

Please stay in touch.

Peace and love,

Ashley Capps
Founder / Executive Director of Big Ears Festival

Our thoughts go out to the whole Big Ears team, and we hope to see the fest back and better than ever soon! As far the potential impact of Coronavirus on future events, we’ll be keeping you updated as soon as other regional fests announce their plans.

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