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Home / Culture / Music / Music festival season kicks off in Europe

Music festival season kicks off in Europe

After a two-year forced break, most rock and pop festivals are taking place again. But COVID has left its mark
Back to normal in 2022? People at Germany's Rock am Ring festival in 2019
Back to normal in 2022? People at Germany's Rock am Ring festival in 2019
Deutsche Welle

Philipp Jedicke   |   Published 04.06.22, 06:41 PM

After a two-year forced break, most of Europe's rock and pop festivals are taking place again. The mood is optimistic. But the COVID pandemic has left its mark.

The festival season in Europe finally begins again in June, starting with a three-day weekend due to the holiday of Pentecost on Monday.

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In Germany, Rock am Ring and Rock im Park expect a combined total of more than 160,000 fans, who can look forward to enjoying about 70 bands.

Primavera Sound opens in Barcelona, as are smaller and micro festivals including the Rock Hard Festival in Gelsenkirchen and the Orange Blossom Special in Beverungen, closely followed by Melt! from June 9-12, Hurricane and Southside the weekend after that and the Roskilde festival in Denmark, from June 25 to July 2.

People are eager and optimistic ahead of the first festival summer after a two-year break due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions; everyone is keen to socialize, dance, party and have a good time after such a long time at home.

Few cultural events offer as much of a sense of community as music festivals. Whether you're into hardcore metal or soft electronic music, the festival scene in Germany and its European neighbors offers an enormous variety and musical range.

Finally let loose again

"Postponing for two years is not what we get fired up about, we want to make live music and make it possible for others to experience live music," says Jonas Rohde, head of communications for FKP Scorpio Concert Productions, which organizes, among other things, the sold-out German Hurricane and Southside festivals.

The events, taking place from June 17-19, feature among others Seeed, Deichkind and Kings of Leon, as well as Charlie XCX and Nura. "Our focus is to finally deliver the festival we promised our fans," Rohde told DW, adding that they for the most part managed to keep the previously planned line-up.

Even as fans eagerly look forward to the 2022 festival summer, organizers are wistful and nervous. The strain of the pandemic and economic losses of at times up to 95% were a discontinuity never experienced to such an extent before, Rohde said.

FKP Scorpio was lucky because they more or less managed to keep their team throughout the pandemic. The company owes its survival primarily to the festival-goers who kept the tickets they had bought for the planned 2020 and 2021 events, "and we would like to thank them for that, because it cannot be taken for granted," added Rohde.

Fewer trained staff

Things didn't generally go as comparatively smoothly for all concert producers, however. "The pandemic is probably the worst thing that can happen to a culture like ours," said Holger Jan Schmidt, secretary-general of the Yourop European music festival association.

Over the past two years, the industry has lost many experienced, mostly freelance professionals who have gone elsewhere, according to Schmidt.

"Many festivals and service providers are looking for staff or are working with a large number of inexperienced staff," Schmidt told DW,

"It will take years to adequately compensate at all levels and areas of the festivals," he said.

The large number of postponed events from previous years creates a much greater demand for staff and materials than the market can provide, he added.

Events with budgets determined in 2020 now have to be staged under 2022 conditions — including, Schmidt pointed out, "massive price increases due to sparse availability of materials and personnel, increased energy costs, inflation and the additional costs incurred by colleagues for keeping teams together during the pandemic."

The festival market in Europe is very heterogeneous, but it remains a challenge for almost everyone, he said, adding he is confident that the "very creative scene will successfully meet the challenge and ignite a very special magic this summer that only we can create."

Roskilde's case

One of the biggest music events in Europe and one of the most famous rock and pop festivals in the world, the Roskilde Festival in Denmark is said to be particularly magical. Fans and artists alike love it.

But Roskilde is much more than just a cool festival — the "European Woodstock" is a non-profit festival. Profits are passed on to charities, NGOs and cultural organizations worldwide.

In times when people are seeking alternative forms of economy and lifestyles, Roskilde plays a pioneering role.

Once a year, the small town of the same name becomes Denmark's fourth-largest city: 130,000 people take part in the Roskilde Festival, and about one out of four are volunteers.

Roskilde Festival also suffered greatly from the pandemic, and many people with whom the festival team worked for years are no longer there.

Even celebrations for the festival's 50th anniversary, which would have been in 2020, could not take place in the form that fans and organizers had hoped for, which makes the joy about its comeback this year all the greater.

Roskilde fans for the most part kept their tickets; the festival was sold out before the pandemic hit. The festival also benefits from the fact that many volunteers work in key positions, so there has been no lack of experienced security personnel, according to security chief Morten Therkildsen.

"We're looking ahead," Therkildsen said, adding that for Roskilde organizers, "the most important thing is to do something for the young people in the community and change things for the better for them."

The festival is offering an extra 5,000 tickets for people under 25. "Our young people are taking good care of each other, but the level of enthusiasm this time will probably be a little bit higher than usual, along the lines of, 'Yes, we're back!'" As a result, there will be quiet zones as a novelty, for young fans new to the festival scene.

And for the first time in decades, fans will have to do without a longstanding tradition, which usually had several thousand people rushing onto the festival grounds at the same time when the event kicked off. That has been suspended.

From Deutsche Welle Newsfeed



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