Music News: SXSW 2021 goes virtual, but holds out hope for IRL option


Dylan Cartlidge performs at The Current Day Party during SXSW 2019
Music fans capture images of Dylan Cartlidge's performance at The Current Day Party at Barracuda in Austin, Texas, on Friday, March 15, 2019, during the SXSW music festival. (Nate Ryan | MPR)

For many people in the U.S. music world, the moment when the devastating reality of the coronavirus pandemic hit home was when SXSW 2020 was cancelled. If the music world was going to make do without SXSW, there was going to be a lot more to do without in coming months.

The festival has now announced that its spring 2021 event will be at least partially virtual. "The Music Festival will be curated by programming staff with priority given to showcase presenters and artists who were scheduled for the 2020 event," explained organizers in a statement. There will be parallel processes for the Film Festival and conference panels.

At the same time, SXSW hasn't entirely given up hope that a live-in-person option could be part of the mix. "SXSW is working with the City of Austin and public health authorities on plans for a physical event in 2021. We will provide updates as more information becomes available."

Other major festivals are taking varying approaches to going virtual. This weekend Bonnaroo is hosting a "Virtual ROO-ALITY" festival, a free series of streams ranging from archival performances from festivals past (including Beastie Boys' full-length set from 2009) to newly recorded performances and events like a Dog Dance Party that's, for some reason, sponsored by Tito's Vodka.

This year's Farm Aid festival is also happening this Saturday, and it will be an entirely virtual experience with new performances from artists including co-founders Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young. In a statement, Nelson said, "This pandemic and so many other challenges have revealed how essential family farmers and ranchers are to the future of our planet. Farm Aid 2020 is going to give the whole country a chance to learn about the important work of farmers and how they're contributing to our well-being, beyond bringing us good food."

To stay up-to-date on the best live online music, check out The Current's Virtual Gig List.

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