As Summerfest postpones, Milwaukee’s summer festival season remains in doubt

As Summerfest postpones, Milwaukee’s summer festival season remains in doubt

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Each Thursday morning on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Jordan Lee — talk about the music coming into and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In

Like everyone else, we’re wondering when we can get back to seeing shows and festivals. And this week we learned that, in terms of Summerfest at least, it’s going to be a little bit longer than we anticipated.

Summerfest was supposed to be a trio of three-day weekends starting in June, but this week the festival announced that it will postpone those weekends until September. This isn’t a huge surprise: Other music festivals have been rescheduling for September in hopes of giving the vaccines time to build herd immunity against the coronavirus.

Photo courtesy Summerfest

Summerfest officials are optimistic that we can reach herd immunity by September, Piet reports, and although the vaccine rollout has been bumpy, there’s signs that things are getting back on course. But nothing is guaranteed at this point.

Halsey, who was supposed to headline Summerfest, has already canceled that tour entirely, so it won’t be a surprise if many of the headliners that Summerfest has already announced for its amphitheater, including Justin Bieber, also canceled.

So what could Summerfest look like this year? Organizers for the festival say it’s too early to speculate, although it’s a safe bet that the festival will look a little different. It’s hard to imagine that the festival would be able to pull off a reduced capacity event, though. It’s very business model requires large attendances.

We also talk about what this means for other music festivals. PrideFest was supposed to take place this June, and it has already canceled those dates. Organizers said there just isn’t enough time to tell whether it will be safe enough to hold a festival yet.

Is it possible Milwaukee could see another summer like 2020, with almost no summer festivals? There are signs we’re heading that direction. But because the coronavirus is less contagious outdoors than it is indoors, it could be possible we see some return to outdoor music this summer — park concert series, for instance. That would be great news for the community and for Milwaukee musicians who haven’t been able to receive any money from playing gigs for nearly a year now.

Hear us discuss all that on this week’s episode below.

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