COVID-19 devastates fans of summer concert season

COVID-19 devastates fans of summer concert season

Jenna Hanson, Staff Writer

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Music festivals are the highlight of everyone’s summer. The concert season kicks off on the West Coast with Coachella in California and moves east. However, there will be a limited amount of moving happening this summer.

“I had always watched live streams of Coachella, Governors Ball and Lollapalooza online growing up, and loved the idea of huge outdoor concerts,” said Reese Morgan of Ankeny, Iowa of the upcoming changes to the season.

The cancelations of festivals is rampant throughout the Chicagoland area. The Blues, Gospel, House and even Ravinia in Highland Park will all go dark this year. Gov. J.B. Pritzker made the decision to cancel all upcoming festivals on May 5, excluding Lollapalooza, through the month of May.

The state is planning to re-open in sections based on a five-phase method. By phase three, small gatherings are allowed. Phase four allows people gathering in groups of up to 50. In the final phase, Illinois residents can gather freely. In other words, large outdoor gatherings are a long way away.

Pritzker said in an interview with NBC 5 Chicago on April 15, “Until we have a vaccine…I would not risk having larger groups of people getting together anywhere. Even with tests and tracing and treating, it’s necessary for us to begin to make changes.”

Lollapalooza tweeted they are “working to determine their plans” for 2020. Even with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s reassurance that Lollapalooza remained on schedule, there is still a possibility of it being canceled.

Kinleigh Quam of Ankeny, of Iowa, attended Lollapalooza in 2018.

“I approve of taking all precautions necessary to flatten the curve,” she said. “I still think it sucks, and I hope they don’t have a huge loss of profits.”

Lightfoot told NBC 5 Chicago on April 15 that, “Plans for summer programming and events remain under discussion. Our department and the city team will continue to work closely with our partners at the state to adopt protocols based on the information we receive and the guidance of health experts.”

Kendall Polidori, a managing editor for The Columbia Chronicle and staff writer for Honey Punch Magazine, covers many music festivals like Lollapalooza and Riot Fest, with plans to cover Shaky Knees and Pitchfork this summer.

“I have pretty much halted my work in music journalism during the pandemic and have been focusing on my job at The Chronicle,” said Polidor, “The cancelation of concerts and festivals really took a toll on the work I was doing with two online music publications. For those, I was attending three or four concerts a week, taking photos at shows, interviewing artists and writing up reviews/feature pieces.”

Morgan attended Lollapalooza in 2019. She said, “It’s sad to think about missing out on that experience again, but having a large festival during a pandemic seems like a bad idea. Hopefully we can have safe festival experiences again in the coming years.”

Not only do performing artists experience a loss, local artists that display their artwork for attendees lose most of their business. Art is one of many staple pieces for Lollapalooza.

Quam described her favorite memory of the festival was seeing the artwork and slideshows made by the artists, especially The Arctic Monkeys.

Pitchfork, an indie/alternative music festival taking place in Union Park from July 17-19, also canceled this year’s fest. Ticket holders were contacted via email for options on refunding; Pitchfork still plans on posting live streams to support the artists on their lineup.

The Blues and Gospel festivals set to take place in Millenium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center from May 27 to June 7 are also closing their doors. While the admission is free, spectators are advised to donate. Performers have to audition but do not receive much pay, the city uses proceeds from CTA riders, the Chicago Tribune and local radio stations covering and live-streaming the performances. The artists participating in the live stream receive pay from donations made by viewers.

The board of trustees for The Chicago Blues and Gospel Festival was raising an additional $65,000 through donations from fans for their sister charity Arts for Illinois Relief Fund in order to aid in arts industries impacted by Covid-19. All donations made by individuals, foundations and public sources are taxable deductible and go directly into supporting the artists and arts organizations throughout Illinois.

On top of it all, Broadway in Chicago is moving most of its May performance dates to June and even canceling shows completely. Once Upon A One More Time directed by Kristin Hangii, and set to perform at the James M. Nederlander Theatre from Apr. 14 – May 17 had to cancel her show. Shows like ,directed by Jerry Adler, had to move from the Cadillac Palace Theatre performance scheduled from March 24 – Apr. 12, 2020 to May 12 – 23, 2021.

Canceling the Broadway shows causes major consequences in ticket sales and customers. Refunds vary based on which media was used for purchase. If purchased through the box office, holders are advised to contact via email at [email protected]. If it was through a third party company, holders are advised to contact the customer service of the website used.

The doors to all theatres in Chicago closed abruptly on March 12, causing shows that were currently opening to push back their dates. The Broadway industry shutting down causes a loss of $300,000 per show per week and $590,000 for musicals, weekly. Shows are looking to make money through keeping their tickets at full price and including premium customers in order to keep their status.

Broadway shows are losing around 50% of their income, leaving actors struggling with finding money to pay for certain things.

“I cannot imagine Broadway theatres functioning at less than capacity. This could be a monumental task but the only way to reopen,” said veteran show producer, Robyn Goodman to NBC 5 Chicago during an interview on May 12.

On the other hand, some shows are offering changes for holders to make. Whether it means changing seats for their later dates, changing shows completely or offering a full refund. Shows like My Fair Lady, The Office! A Musical Parody and The Bachelor Live on Stage are offering full refunds or exchanges due to the pandemic.

On the opposite side of the music spectrum, Chicago’s House Music and Conference Festival set for May 21 – 24 in Millenium Park, the Cultural Center and more, is canceled. A later date to celebrate is not in the picture. While artists were free to view, donations and tips become more and more important to performers, including large donations that are rumored to go to certain foundations in order to keep the artists coming back. And ultimately to keep spreading the music.

Another huge event canceled in the summer of 2020 is Ravinia, based in Highland Park. The outdoor venue is known to be the oldest musical festival location in the country. Originally a theme park that lured people in from Chicago and Milwaukee with baseball diamonds and rides, Ravinia became a venue most popular for its live music.

Only ever closing its doors once from 1932 to 1935 for the Great Depression, Ravina is now closed for the summer because of this pandemic. Empty parking lots and an empty stage are expected to be seen throughout this coming summer.

With the state of Illinois having its sights on everyone’s health, some sacrifices that cause a break from tradition can be heartbreaking.

Welz Kauffman, chairman and CEO of Ravinia said to ABC 7, “Ultimately, did we really want to take the risk of putting anybody at risk – it just didn’t make any sense.”

Ravinia is still working with artists for possible rebooking in 2021.

Ravinia’s summer team has now begun closely monitoring the state’s new rules on public gatherings in order to maximize their space and continuing to spread music.

“Silence is going to be deafening. It’s going to be a pretty traumatic thing,” said David Cunliffe, cellist of The Lincoln Trio, supposed to perform at Ravinia, to ABC 7 News on May 1, 2020.

Cunliffe’s wife Desiree Ruhstrat, who plays for The Lincoln Trio as well, told ABC 7 News during the same interview, “It is so upsetting for the artists and the staff…who have put all year into their summers to produce the world’s greatest festival.”

Anyone who purchased Ravinia tickets can receive refunds or vouchers for future performances, or they can convert those funds into tax-deductible donations to Ravinia.

Refunds are distributed through the ticket office and delivered via email. In order to receive, contact the box office by calling (847)266-5100.