August 2020 Recap: COVID Controversies and Concert Innovation
Most major tours had been delayed or canceled by August 2020, and the music world entered a new era of concert controversies and onstage innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Artists were eager to play, and audiences were desperate for live connectivity. But as the deadly virus continued to spread, a line was drawn in the sand. Bands like Metallica chose to creatively circumvent the health risks, filming a concert movie streamed at drive-in theaters. One venue even staged the U.K.'s first socially distanced outdoor show.
Meanwhile, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally drew criticism for continuing as normal, despite health concerns and the withdrawal of numerous major artists from the lineup. (The organizers maintained they adhered to or recommended safety measures.)
Elsewhere, August brought the long-awaited announcement of Tom Petty's Wildflowers box set. Sadly, it also saw the deaths of UFO bassist Pete Way and Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali.
You can read more about the biggest stories from August 2020 below.
Rock Amid the Pandemic
Summer festivals were essentially non-existent in 2020. But the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally moved forward with its 80th annual event, despite widespread concerns about coronavirus transmission. The initial lineup was set to include ZZ Top, REO Speedwagon, Willie Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd and others, but Sturgis was left scrambling to find replacements (including Night Ranger and Smash Mouth) after bands pulled out beforehand. Organizers for the 10-day rally, spread across eight locations in Sturgis, S.D., noted they observed or recommended safety measures.
Meanwhile, the U.K.'s first socially distanced outdoor concert venue was unveiled at the Virgin Money Unity Arena in Newcastle, England, as 2,500 fans watched a performance by Sam Fender. The setup featured 500 platforms spread across the viewing area, each with a five-person maximum.
On a lighter note, many baseball teams filled stadium seats with cutouts since the pandemic kept fans from attending live games — and Rush singer-bassist Geddy Lee, a famous Toronto Blue Jays supporter, was spotted among the artificial faces.
Metallica Bring Distortion to Drive-Ins
Artists were forced to pause or adapt as traditional shows vanished. Metallica became one of several acts who embraced the nostalgia of the drive-in theater experience, filming an audience-free 16-song set at a California vineyard and broadcasting the footage at locations across North America. The recording was kept secret out of fear that they'd be forced to cancel, since a socially distanced California performance by Chris Robinson had already been nixed due to pressure from local officials. Everyone involved in the Metallica show — including the crew and band members — reportedly followed detailed safety protocols, and the show moved forward. The final result was a rare bright moment in a dismal summer.
Frankie Banali Dies
Quiet Riot's Frankie Banali died on Aug. 20 at age 68, 16 months after being diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The drummer — who also played with W.A.S.P. and Faster Pussycat — was forced to miss several Quiet Riot shows while undergoing medical treatment, though Banali regularly updated fans on his progress through social media. A GoFundMe page was set up to assist with medical bills, raising more than $47,000. In a statement, Banali's family wrote that he lost his "inspiringly brave and courageous" battle after his "standard chemotherapy stopped working, and a series of strokes made the continuation on a clinical trial impossible."
Pete Way Dies
The rock world also lost Pete Way, who died on Aug. 14 at age 69. The founding UFO bassist sustained "life-threatening injuries in an accident" some two months prior, according to his official Facebook page. Way co-founded UFO in 1968, playing on their first 10 LPs before leaving in 1982. A brief stint back in the lineup followed in the late '80s; Way then rejoined in 1991 and stayed through 2008. He also worked with Ozzy Osbourne and the Michael Schenker Group along the way.
Tom Petty's 'Wildflowers' Box Set Finally Confirmed
Fans waited 26 years to hear the full scope of 1994's Wildflowers, which Tom Petty originally planned as a double-LP before paring it back to a single disc. His estate revealed plans for an all-inclusive set in August, nearly three years after Petty's death. Wildflowers & All the Rest wouldn't arrive until October, but this announcement started the official countdown for one of 2020's most notable archival albums. The Super Deluxe 70-track box eventually arrived with nine previously unreleased cuts, along with outtakes, home demos, live tracks and alternate versions.