For the first time ever, Glastonbury Festival has been canceled for two years in a row. The U.K.’s flagship music festival will not go ahead in 2021, due to the ongoing difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was scheduled to take place June 23–27, with no lineup attached yet. “In spite of our efforts to move Heaven & Earth, it has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the festival happen,” festival organizers Emily and Michael Eavis wrote in a statement. The festival previously canceled its 50th anniversary lineup, set for 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Traditionally, Glastonbury also takes a periodic “fallow year” to allow the festival grounds to recover. 2020 and 2021 are considered “enforced fallow years” after a planned fallow year in 2018 — meaning the festival has now occurred just once in the past four years, in 2019. According to the Eavises’ statement, 2021 ticket holders can use their deposits to secure 2022 tickets.
Glastonbury’s decision contrasts with the current U.S. festival landscape, where many events still seem set on some level of a return in 2021. The day before Glastonbury’s announcement, on January 20, the Chicago Tribune reported that Pitchfork Festival had applied for a permit to hold the event from September 10–12 in Chicago, planning for 200 performers and 19,000 attendees each day. That’s significantly smaller than Glastonbury, which logged 203,000 guests across five days in 2019, but larger American festivals also aren’t backing down from 2021 yet. Last week, Governors Ball announced plans to take place from September 24–26 on New York City’s Governors Island. The festival’s “2021 FAQ” page doesn’t mention attendance, but lately, Governors Ball has drawn around 150,000 attendees across its three days. “Given that vaccines are rolling out and many experts predict a return to live music events in the Fall, we are hopeful,” the “FAQ” page reads, in response to a question about the likelihood of a 2021 return. “We’re booking an amazing lineup and making sure all suggested safety protocols are followed. Rest assured that safety is our first priority and we are working closely with all city and state authorities on everything.”
As far as the Big Three go, Bonnaroo has been set on fall 2021 since last September, when the Tennessee festival announced September 2–5 as new dates. Around the same time, Rolling Stone reported that Coachella organizers were looking to move to October 2021. The festival hasn’t made that official, but Palm Springs mayor Christy Holstege seemed to confirm it in an interview last week. “We’re hoping that those events will be rescheduled to the fall of this year,” Holstege told Channel Q KQPS 103.1 FM on January 13, when asked about 2021 plans for Coachella. Chicago’s Lollapalooza has yet to announce any intentions for 2021.
These plans align with Dr. Anthony Fauci’s recent projection that live music could return by fall 2021, as he told the Association of Performing Arts Professionals in early January, per the New York Times. But a rush to return right away in fall 2021 could lead to a saturated festival schedule, both in specific cities and the country as a whole. Pitchfork Festival’s reported September plans turned heads in the Chicago music scene, where Riot Fest, another rock festival, is already scheduled for the following weekend, September 17–19. Not to complain about the return of live music though.