Coachella music fest cancelled for 2020 due to pandemic

In this file photo, Beyonce performs at Coachella
Image Credit: AFP

Coachella and The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the marquee pop extravaganza that was postponed in March as the coronavirus pandemic led to shutdowns across the US, is officially cancelled for the year.

Riverside County, California, which encompasses the Coachella Valley and hosts the event, said that its public health officer, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, called off the weekend-long concert series, along with Stagecoach, a country music festival that is also held annually at the Empire Polo Club in Indio. Both events were originally scheduled for April before being pushed to October as the entire live-music industry paused earlier this spring.

“I am concerned as indications grow that COVID-19 could worsen in the fall,” Kaiser said in a statement Wednesday announcing the cancellations. “In addition, events like Coachella and Stagecoach would fall under Gov. Newsom’s Stage 4, which he has previously stated would require treatments or a vaccine to enter. Given the projected circumstances and potential, I would not be comfortable moving forward.”

The announcement came while many places eased restrictions tied to the virus and made plans to reopen — including the Disneyland Resort in California — even as the US surpassed 2 million coronavirus cases and saw rising rates of infection in 21 states.


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Travis Scott was to perform at Coachella this year
Image Credit: AFP

AEG Presents, which owns the concert promoter Goldenvoice, the presenter of both festivals, laid off 15 per cent of its employees and furloughed many more this week while also instituting pay cuts, according to Billboard. The magazine reported that Goldenvoice was considering whether Coachella would return at full capacity (about 125,000 people per day) in October 2021, or with fewer attendees in April, when it typically kicks off the summer festival season.

This year’s Coachella was initially set to be headlined by rapper Travis Scott, singer Frank Ocean and a reunited Rage Against the Machine, along with dozens of other acts from across genres. Stagecoach was scheduled to feature Carrie Underwood, Eric Church, ZZ Top and more.

The concert industry has been essentially frozen since mid-March, when AEG and Live Nation, the corporations that dominate the live-music sphere, suspended all touring in North America in response to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving artists – as well as their crews and all other affiliated workers – unsure of when such large-scale events will return. Other major music festivals, including Lollapalooza in Chicago, Levitation in Austin and Summerfest in Milwaukee, have also been called off for the year.

“These decisions are not taken lightly with the knowledge that many people will be impacted,” said Kaiser, the Riverside County public health officer. “My first priority is the health of the community.”

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