Earlier this month, Montreal’s Osheaga Music and Arts Festival announced three of its headliners for its 15th anniversary in 2021. It’s doubtful that Foo Fighters, Cardi B and Post Malone have booked any flights with Air Canada – and it’s even harder to imagine that live music will be back in any major way by next summer. But here’s to hope. Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl once sang, “I’m a new day rising, I’m a brand-new sky,” and who isn’t onboard with that?
No adage had a tougher 2020 than “The show must go on.” Festivals, major tours and dive-bar gigs were wiped away by COVID-19, replaced by a smattering of socially-distanced concerts and countless live events carried online that were rarely events and sometimes not even live. Yet shows, such as they were, went on.
Why did Osheaga announce its lineup? Maybe, after cancelling this summer, to keep its brand alive. Or, to stay alive financially – they’re peddling passes and looking for sponsorship commitments. The venerable Mariposa Folk Festival has also started selling packages for its annual summer affair in Orillia, Ont.
It hasn’t been publicized, but Orillia’s favourite son Gordon Lightfoot is booked to play Toronto’s Massey Hall for four nights in November , in case COVID-19 restrictions are lifted by then – and if the venue’s extensive renovations are completed. Live music plans are in motion all over. Ducks in rows, you know.
It remains to be seen if concerts will soon (or ever) return as we remember them pre-pandemic. Perhaps we can expect more of the kind of outdoor concerts held this past August in Gosforth Park, Newcastle, where gig-goers were kept separate in groups of five on their own socially distanced platforms.
Persuading the punters to slap down deposits on music events still months away won’t be easy. Concertgoers had a tough go of it trying to get their money back from Ticketmaster and other promoters for cancelled shows this year. Easier to sell coal to Newcastle than tickets to Osheaga now.
A better guarantee are the albums to come. Osheaga headliner Foo Fighters plan to drop Medicine at Midnight when the clock strikes Feb. 5. Though lead single Shame Shame is subdued and moody, frontman Grohl has said the LP is a “party record.”
A look at the album-release calendar for early 2021 reveals more of that to come. Guitar-rock revivalists Greta Van Fleet already released the sci-fi single Age of Machine in advance of their forthcoming sophomore album The Battle at Garden’s Gate, due April 16.
The heavy-rock parade includes loud sounds from Hamilton’s Dirty Nil, Montreal’s the Besnard Lakes, the Australian-American semi-supergroup the Dead Daisies and, on Feb. 26, Alice Cooper. No plots are spoiled when I tell you that Detroit Stories, from the legendary Michigan shock-rocker and guillotine specialist, was inspired by his hometown.
Song titles suggest desperation (Hail Mary), romanticism (Our Love Will Change the World), frivolous online spending ($1000 High Heel Shoes), memos to self (Shut Up and Rock), and, ultimately, with Hanging On By a Thread (Don’t Give Up), the state of humanity.
As to whether these albums represent a resurgence in guitar rock or just a blip, it’s worth noting that Fender announced this fall that its guitar sales grew 17 per cent during the pandemic and were expected to top $700 million this year as self-quarantining consumers looked for new hobbies.
If 2020 was the year from hell, the forecast for 2021 is disappointment and devil-horn music.
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