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Mix Blog Live: Back to Normal? Almost…

The summer festival season is back in a big way, as Steve La Cerra reports, though he adds that if you are working backstage, it would behoove you to still check venue and artist protocols.

The Summer 2022 music festival season is shaping up nicely, if not quite back to “normal” (pre-Covid) levels of activity. There have been speed bumps: 

Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band canceled the last 12 dates of their tour after two members of the band tested positive, and Matchbox Twenty has moved three months of summer tour dates to 2023. Other artists, including The Doobie Brothers, Chris Stapleton, The Strokes, and Eric Clapton have canceled or rescheduled some of the dates on their respective tours. 

There are, however, still plenty of festivals that are “on as scheduled,” if not yet back to pre-Covid strength. Here is a sampling of the highlights…

Barcelona Rock Fest returns June 30 through July 1 with a three-day schedule and 13 bands, including Kiss (didn’t they retire?), Alice Cooper, Judas Priest and Nightwish. If you plan to attend this one, plan to stay in town long enough to see La Sagrada Familia, and make sure you get tickets ahead of time if you want to visit the Basilica. 

Kicking off on June 30 and running through July 9, the 42nd  Montreal Jazz Fest presents a truly diverse lineup of talent. Among the artists slated to appear are Al DiMeola, The Roots, Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra Featuring Wynton Marsalis, Tommy Emmanuel, X, The Psychedelic Furs, Joey Bada$$, Meshell N’degeocello, and Pat Metheny. 

Billed as the World’s Largest Music Festival, Milwaukee Summerfest returns with a vengeance this year, running for the weekends of June 23-25, June 30-July 2, and July 7-9. As usual, a wide spectrum of artists are scheduled to appear, including Halsey, Wu-Tang Clan, Lil Wayne, Jason Aldean, John Fogerty, Stone Temple Pilots, Steve Aoki, Disturbd, and Blue Öyster Cult (shameless plug). 

Metalheads can rejoice in the return of Wacken Open Air featuring Judas Priest, Dirkschneider, Gwar, Limp Bizkit, Loudness, Mercyful Fate, and Slipknot. This year, WOA runs August 4, 5 and 6. Bring your earplugs. Please. 

For those who prefer a somewhat less raucous program, there’s the Newport Jazz Festival, July 29-31. Established in 1954, NJF is one of the longest-running annual music festivals. This year’s roster boasts Norah Jones, Jack Dejohnette Quartet, Esperanza Spalding, and Terrance Blanchard, to name a few. You probably won’t need earplugs for this one. 

The Montreux Jazz Festival may have been made famous by the first line of Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water,” but the festival dates back to 1967. Much like other “jazz” festivals, Montreux offers a wide array of diverse performers, ranging from John Legend, Diana Ross, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, and Herbie Hancock, to Alan Parsons Live Project, John McLaughlin and The 4th Dimension, Jeff Beck and others. 

Staying Safe

Most of these festivals are deferring to the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health agencies regarding Covid protocol for patrons. Backstage protocols, however, vary wildly. One stage manager I spoke with this week told me, “We’re in line with the rules established by local authorities—which are non-existent,” while another told me, “Anyone backstage must be wearing a mask.” 

And, there are still artists requiring that anyone working backstage must present proof of a negative test within a day or two of the show. It might be erring on the side of safety, but it’s a good plan to stay in business. Let’s all have a safe summer.