July 3, 2021 — Much to the chagrin of folk and metal fans around the world, the popular Wardruna’s North American tour has once again been put on hold, while European concert-goers have been greeted with the cancelation of the two largest folk & metal events.
What are the implications for neofolk, and for all of live music? Since the pandemic took hold in early 2020, lovers of live music have no doubt been feeling socially pent-up. Under lockdowns and restrictions, there simply is no suitable replacement for the soul-vibrating thrum a small, intimate music venue can provide. Or for the sheer size and clamorous unison of a crowd-filled stadium. Artists and audiences alike have felt the dampening effects that “repression of passion” has had for quite some time. Will 2021 cancellations become the norm?
Are Neofolk Showings Still On Schedule?
Norway’s Wardruna, one of the most prevalent neofolk bands, has decided to delay their North America tour once again. What does this mean for neofolk? And what could it foretell for live music as a whole?
Originally planned for 2020, the highly anticipated Wardruna tour was meant to support the release of their newest album Kvitravn. The group’s tour was first postponed until 2021, with Kvitravn delayed until January (of this year — it is available now) as a result of fragile just-in-time logistics and the inevitable closure of warehouses and production facilities in the wake of COVID-19.
On the upside, Heilung, another well-known neofolk group, has not adjusted its 2021 schedule. The band, which is made up of members from Denmark, Norway, and Germany, is still scheduled to embark on Tuesday, October 5 this year. After premiering their tour in Denver, Colorado at the magnificent Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Heilung will leave North America behind and head to Europe. They will first land in Stockholm, Sweden to perform in Annexet, a 4000-capacity venue of the Stockholm Globe City, after which they are planning to blaze a trail all the way to the UK, before turning back and ending the show in the old mining town of Bochum, Germany on December 16.
A rescheduling of Heilung’s 2021 tour is still possible — some might even call it likely. SKÁLD, a fellow neofolk group from France that has been growing rapidly in popularity, has canceled the vast majority of their appearances for this year. The popular Castlefest (Lisse, Netherlands, August 5-8) is among the mere two dates SKÁLD has maintained.
The tidings are looking somewhat grim for live music. Many mainstream, stadium-filling artists relented to the ongoing pandemic, announcing cancellations early in the year. Are smaller, more intimate performances going to follow suit? And what about even larger gatherings?
Wardruna in 2022?
Now, in 2021, the pandemic is still going rather more strongly than most people would prefer. With Wardruna having recently announced the second rescheduling of their tour to 2022, fans were provided with the following statement in response to the once-again delayed tour;
“We are grateful for your patience, and promise to make it worth the wait!” — Einar Selvik
The statement is clearly in line with the Norwegian band’s plans for the updated 2022 version of Wardruna’s North America tour, which has added two new locations. A brand-new show at the Atlanta Symphony Hall in Atlanta, Georgia will kick off the event on Tuesday, October 11, 2022, with the other extra performance to take place at the Elsinore Theatre in Salem, Oregon around a week later on Sunday, October 30 — the back-to-back shows will increase the duration of the tour by around a week.
The Festival Circuit
Many notable North American music festivals, such as Coachella and Cincinnati, have already been cancelled for this year. However, plenty of lesser-known but more inclusive events do not seem to be wavering. Events such as Edmonton Folk Festival (Edmonton, Alberta, August 5-8) and Old Settler’s Music Festival (Dale, Texas, October 21-24) are still on schedule. While it seems like patrons of more mainstream events will be sorely disappointed this year, both in the US and Europe, NA-based fans of niche and/or intimate live music experiences may still have strong hope, and with good reason.
Europe has seen the cancellation of Hellfest Summer Open Air this year, as well as the Wacken Open Air Festival. Both of these events boast a titanic presence in the European music scene. Wacken Open Air is touted as the largest heavy metal festival in the world, and have until recently been held annually since 1990 on the first weekend of August in the village of Wacken in Schleswig-Holstein in Germany. Wacken has also become ritual to neofolk bands like Heilung and SKÁLD. Meanwhile, Hellfest — a French rock festival — once upon a time in 2017, sold a staggering 55,000 tickets — per date. The weight of such cancellations is not to be understated.
However, all is not lost in Europe. Many nimbler yet respectably large events have avoided cancellation, such as the aforementioned Castlefest, which is, as of yet, still scheduled for August 5-8, 2021. Additionally, Motocultor Festival (Brittany, France, August 19-22), at which SKÁLD will be performing, is still on. Much like in North America, it appears the largest-scale European events have not fared well this year, while slightly smaller gatherings have managed to stay afloat.
This second year of COVID has taken much from music lovers. But, as the world heals, ever slowly but surely, possibilities begin to open up. While more famous events continue to be postponed and many bands announce cancelations, there are more than a few glimmers of hope for live music. Certain bands and event coordinators have decided their respective shows must go on, and it does not look like artists or audience members are likely to give up their passion anytime soon.