While most of the concert industry is still hoping for a return to post-pandemic normalcy next summer, organizers of one of the Twin Cities’ favorite annual outdoor music festivals couldn’t hold out any longer.
Rock the Garden has been called off for 2021. Announcing the cancellation with mutual disappointment Wednesday morning, representatives at Walker Art Center and 89.3 the Current cited extra logistics that require more prep time than many other summer music events, such as coordinating with the city, volunteers and membership initiatives.
“Although it may seem premature, the bulk of the planning, including booking bands on tour and securing permits, needs to be completed by the New Year,” Walker executive director Mary Ceruti said in a statement. “It is not feasible to do this work giving the current situation with COVID-19.”
David Safar, managing director of the Current, also pointed to ongoing safety concerns.
“With so many unknowns related to COVID-19 in the coming months, we couldn’t guarantee a safe experience for our community members at this point,” he said. “That was our deciding factor.”
No doubt another factor was the financial strain caused by the pandemic this year at both the Walker and the Current’s parent Minnesota Public Radio (and at most other nonprofits around the country, for that matter).
The Walker is currently open to only 25% its usual ticket capacity, and it was closed for much of summer’s high season, when the sculpture garden and many other outdoor activities drive up attendance.
Both organizations use Rock the Garden to promote annual memberships and raise money. Many concertgoers could still be uneasy about attending big shows next summer even if virus rates go down and safety guidelines are eased.
Still, organizers pledged that the show will go on in future years.
“We are confident that we will rock the garden together again,” Safar said.
This past summer’s RTG plans were emblematic of how swiftly the concert industry came to a halt in 2020: Organizers announced their June 20 lineup with Tegan & Sara, Brittany Howard, Jay Som and Poliça on Tuesday, March 10. By the weekend of March 13-14, music venues and tours nationwide had shut down. The event was called off three weeks later.
Rock the Garden should not be considered a bellwether for summer concerts in 2021, though — at least not yet.
Many big tours have rescheduled their Twin Cities dates for July or later, including Green Day’s Hella Mega Tour, Guns N’ Roses and Rage Against the Machine. Also, some regional festivals have already sealed their 2021 lineups, including the Winstock country music fest, Twin Cities Summer Jam and Wisconsin’s Rock Fest; not that Limp Bizkit and Luke Combs will offer much solace for regular Rock the Garden attendees.