Jan Blomqvist Talks Playing Coachella, Berlin Techno & Covering The Rolling Stones

Jan Blomqvist

Photo: Christian Dammann


Jan Blomqvist Talks Playing Coachella, Berlin Techno & Covering The Rolling Stones

The German electronic artist, who made his debut in the festival's Yuma tent this Sunday, gets deep into Berlin's club scene, his desire to bring joy to the dance floor, the story behind his latest album, 'Disconnected,' and more

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2019 - 03:13 am

German singer/producer Jan Blomqvist makes ethereal house music with the intention not only to get people dancing, but also feeling and perhaps thinking. His latest album, 2018's Disconnected, which is inspired by his time spent at Burning Man, is based around the idea that in order to stay focused and healthy sometimes we need to remove all distractions.

Since November, he has been touring across Europe and the U.S. in support of the album, along with his live band on most dates. After he wraps up his second weekend playing Coachella, the band will join him for three dates in Mexico, after which they'll offer support to RÜFÜS DU SOL on several of their U.S. tour dates.

We caught up with Blomqvist from on the ground at Coachella 2019, not long after he played his one-man-show Sunday afternoon in the Yuma tent, the fest's well-loved house and techno stage.

You performed here at Coachella in the Yuma earlier today. How was it? How are you feeling?

Honestly, it was pretty difficult today because my moog was totally out of tune. If you know what a moog does, that's what they do. They just get out of tune and f* you at the worst moment, and I tried to figure out and then I was so focused on retuning the synthesizer that I made so many mistakes on the right hand with the other instrument. It was really exhausting for me, but I think my friends here liked it, and the people in the audience which came later, were happy, so I'm happy as well, but a bit disappointed because I could have played better.

Did you realize it was out of tune when you started playing?

It was not out of tune in the beginning. This is the mystery about the moog. Nobody knows why they do it. You can use all other synthesizers, doesn't have this feature. I think they make it to sound more vintage, like in the '70s. And so that was my problem today, and I think I made it okay, but I'm looking very forward to next Sunday, to make it a 100% performance.

That's true, you have round two. Was it your first time performing at Coachella?

I've played at Do LaB before, but some people told me it doesn't count.

It definitely counts. When did you play at Do LaB?

I think so too. At night, two years ago. It was packed, like 600 people or something. It was cool.

So this was your first year on the main Coachella lineup. Well you have next weekend too, and at least no one knew that it was out of tune.

I hope so. I heard it immediately, and so, yeah, that's what I got stressed, and it's never good to be stressed on stage. That was my disappointing point of the day, but in the end it was still a good show, though, and it was a good energy. And as long as it's not totally failing, it always brings you further.

Have you been able to check out any other music at the fest? Is there anyone you're looking forward to seeing tonight?

Yesterday I wanted to see Billie Eilish and Bob Moses, but I worked way too late.

You get smarter when you getting older, so next time I have one week free before Coachella, also before Burning Man and then I'll have time to check out stuff. This time I played three shows and was in four cities. Yeah, it was stupid. I was traveling five days a row. It doesn't make sense. If you do Coachella or any big festival then you should focus on that and the other gigs can wait, honestly.

And DJs are humans, too. They need to have fun, right?

Yeah, but officially not.

Who are your biggest musical influences? What kind of music did you grow up listening to and what are you listening to these days?

I grew up with vinyls, with Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones and Mick Jagger. I think that's normal in our generation. Our parents had vinyls and we just played them. I'm still a huge Bob Dylan fan. I don't like Rolling Stones as much anymore, but I like Mick Jagger's solo project. It's still pretty amazing. He's old and has so much energy. He's kind of an idol. If I'm 75, I want be like this. And later on, of course, I got into normal things like Blur, Radiohead, Nirvana, Björk. I went through all this rock, hip-hop things, and then I moved to Berlin, and suddenly I was totally a techno addict.

What year did you move to Berlin? Was it at the beginning of the techno scene there?

In 2002. Everything was there. It was just a bit more underground than now. All the clubs are really set up in Berlin right now are exactly the same age, 17 years.

Which club is your favorite? I know, it's a hotly debated topic.

It depends on the day, really. On Sundays in Berlin it's the best; Sunday evening in Berghain is amazing. Monday in Sisyphos, Sunday at Kater Blau, Wednesday at Watergate, and it also depends on who's playing.

Berghain can be really amazing but can also be a sht show, and I don't want to talk bad about any DJs, but sometimes, in my opinion, it's really good and sometimes it's really bad, but the club's unbelievable. I have never seen any comparable club in the world. It's like made of a Tarantino movie. You come there and you feel like you'll get bitten by a vampire. I've been there, I don't know, 100 times, and still when I'm coming there I'm still like, "What the f did you build here?"

Do you feel like it's the same as when you first moved there? What about the techno and house scene has shifted in Berlin as it's become more of a destination?

It's definitely shifted. In the beginning, it was minimal only. It was super hard for me to get gigs, and the clubs even told me like, "Yeah, your music is nice, but nobody wants to hear this piano sh*t."

It was more like trance kind of minimal?

No, it's just minimal. I mean, Richie Hawtin did it in a really good way, and there were many people that tried to copy him and failed totally, that makes it really boring.

Berlin is changing all the time. That's what I love in that city. Since 2010 the music is super open and you can play everything, and I like that. It was really hard for me, the years between 2002 and 2006 or 2007. It was like every club played exactly the same music for like five years, and I was like, "What the f* did you do to your DJs?" DJs should be free, right?

Why do you think it was kind of like restricted like that, and what do you think made it change to more open again?

I have no idea. I ask myself this question still.

So were you just trying to do your own thing? Did it make you want make even more different music?

I tried to break this because I think musicians should be free and you should give them a chance and a stage and just to make them play and I try to convince other musicians to not do just only one kind of music. I mean, the city is big. I cannot imagine that for four million people, everybody wants to listen to the same music. It's bullsh*t.

So, I tried to work harder and to get the gigs, and then finally it worked. Nicolas Jaar came and he was, I think, 17, and then everybody was like, "Whoa, he's 17 and he plays such good music." And then suddenly everybody was like, "Oh, we want piano in the club. Oh, what about vocals?" And then suddenly everything worked, and now Berlin is pretty open-minded when it comes to music, it's generally an open-minded city, I think.

That is interesting how sometimes it's one group or one artist that does something kinda new, that other people have also been doing, but for whatever reason, they catch on.

I mean, [that] was the same with Kurt Cobain, right? Suddenly, he came and then it was suddenly called grunge and there was a completely new genre. It's always like this. Somebody has to open the door and then it works, but the music is there before, of course, it just needs some one character who opens it.

What is the message or vibe you generally try to share when you play your music live, in both your tapered down club setup or in the band-backed live setting?

I mean, in the end it's just all my tracks and the band's just performing my tracks, so it's kind of the same music. But with a band, we play with breaks in between and not so much focused on the transitions and playing slower tracks, like 100 BPM sometimes 110, way more vocals. When you have a real drum set on stage, with real cymbals, it creates a completely different vibe. And with the band we have six synthesizers on stage, I think, and when I play solo I just have one.

So if the one gets out of tune…

Yeah. [Laughs.] Actually, it never got out of tune doing the whole recent tour with the band. Maybe that's why my tuner wasn't working.

"Every human has the same desire of just dancing, laughing and having good music, and that's the point, you have to make them happy. That's your mission as a musician. It's a responsibility."

What's your main purpose when you perform?

I want to make people cry but then laugh at the same time, to give them an edgy feeling that makes them really melancholic but then give them a super positive bass and kick drum. Like a good movie with a happy ending.

And, of course, dancing is important and just being happy. I mean, that's what you need all over the world, doesn't matter where you are. Why are clubs existing? Why is electronic music so big? It's because every human has the same desire of just dancing, laughing and having good music, and that's the point, you have to make them happy. That's your mission as a musician. It's a responsibility. You cannot go onstage and tell them, "F* you. I don't care." You really have the mission to make them happy, and that's the job.

Can you talk about the inspiration behind your last album, Disconnected? It feels like the songs all have a story behind those ethereal beats, and I'm especially curious about "Synth For The Devil," which takes from the Rolling Stones song.

I mean, this song just came to me. I was here, actually, around the corner, like 50 kilometers from here in the [RANCHO V in Pioneertown, Calif.] studio, recording two tracks for our Disconnected album. Then suddenly J [Bowman] was there and Felix [Lehmann, co-producer] and I and my studio company, all just working just for fun on the Rolling Stones thing, just as a break, to have some fun. And then Jay came in like, "Wow, this is the track. I'm the best solo player for this track in the world." I was like, "Okay. Can you play it?" And he played really the best [guitar] solo ever, not totally tight, but nice. And yeah ... And then the idea come up and, "Okay, let's record it." And then we send it to the label for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and they said "Yes."

Did they say they liked it?

Yeah, they liked it. And they answered in one day. We were like, "Okay. What the f*." Okay, then we do it. It's tough. I'm still not 100% convinced if this was a good idea or not because to cover tracks from these big characters is sometimes not a good idea, but when I play it live, it's fun. I think that's the most important thing.

And the Disconnected album. For me, it's important to have a concept album because then you have things you can talk about and that whole thing is more focused, and it's like you have a red line to follow. It's even easier to write lyrics, to write the music.

I was at Burning Man and asked myself, like, "Why are the people coming to this desert to make this huge festival just in an environment which is not easy. There's no water, no electricity, there's nothing. It's gets super hot in the day, super cold in the night. Why there?" And the only answer must be that people need to disconnect from their real life somehow, and the question is "Why is it so important to flee from your life?"

This whole album is about "why do we need to disconnect so much?" I think our generation suffers a lot from this virtual life that we're living in 50% already, and many people cannot even distinguish which is real, which is not, especially in Coachella. You can see so many people who think Instagram is more important than your real friends, and we have to question what our generation has to ask themselves like, "Where do we want to live in the next years and can we make it? How can we make it," and reflect yourself, "What can I do? Am I still real? Am I fake?"

And I don't want to give answers, I just want to give questions or lyrics to make people think, to reflect themselves. The album should be a mirror for the audience.

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7 Reasons Why The Rolling Stones' 'Goats Head Soup' Is Worth Savoring
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards onstage in 1973

Photo: Michael Putland/Getty Images


7 Reasons Why The Rolling Stones' 'Goats Head Soup' Is Worth Savoring

Some critics consider 'Goats Head Soup' to mark the beginning of the Stones' decline. But exhaustion turned out to be one of the Stones' most satisfying moods.

GRAMMYs/Aug 31, 2023 - 02:23 pm

Energetically speaking, the Rolling Stones' 1970s run is something of a reverse parabola — it goes up, and then down.

After 1968's acoustic-focused Beggars Banquet — basically their Led Zeppelin III — and 1969's blues-drenched Let it Bleed, the Stones really started to burn rubber. 1971's gloriously decadent Sticky Fingers was the final ramp-up to their arguable masterpiece: the following year's Exile on Main St.

Across four greasy sides, the Stones went from riotous, disheveled fun to Sunday morning-style ache and longing: it seemingly contains the totality of the Glimmer Twins' art in microcosm.

As Exile on Main St. was such a skyscraping achievement, it's natural to wonder if what followed was a downturn. Enter Goats Head Soup, its 1973 follow-up, which turns 50 today.

Lumpy and undulating, Goats Head Soup is mostly known as the album that gave us their No. 1 ballad "Angie"; "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" also broke the Top 20 on the Hot 100. On the main, it's an elliptical, hazy listen — like the strewn detritus from the Exile on Main St. sessions coagulated into a hobbling automaton.

There is no "Street Fighting Man" or "Gimme Shelter" or "Brown Sugar." Instead, we get the crawling "Dancing With Mr. D," the dog-tired "Coming Down Again," and the shaking-apart "Star Star." More than almost any other Stones album, Goats Head Soup is its own universe.

For better or worse, Goats Head Soup is stuck in first gear. But for Stones fans wired a certain way, that's a feature, not a bug.

When the Stones sound exhausted, that's a Stones worth savoring. And despite any number of middling contemporaneous reviews, Goats Head Soup is where this beautiful comedown began. Here are 10 reasons why you should give this sui generis Stones platter a shot.

"Dancing With Mr. D" Is Something Else

From Keith Richards’ deliciously ominous opening riff forward, "Dancing With Mr. D" proves itself to have almost no analog in the Stones’ catalog.

"Yeah, down in the graveyard where we have our tryst/ The air smells sweet, the air smells sick/ He never smiles, his mouth merely twists," Mick Jagger sputters. "The breath in my lungs feels clinging and thick/ The palms of my hands is clammy and wet."

Does Mr. D’s initial stand for death? For devil? Whatever the case, Jagger’s indulging in some macabre fun.

"Coming Down Again" Is A Buzzkill For The Ages

There’s a certain, unforgettable weariness to Keith Richards’ Stones songs, and "Coming Down Again" is something of a downcast masterpiece.

Before you ask, yes, it’s about drugs — these are the Stones in the ‘70s, after all. But take junkie mythology out of the equation, and it’s simply a thing of windswept, head-hung-low beauty.

Dig Billy Preston With The Stones!

In the years following the events of the Beatles Get Back documentary, keyboardist Billy Preston was in demand as a session cat: he appeared on solo albums by three of four Beatles, as well as those by Sly and the Family Stone, Joe Cocker, and — yes — the Stones.

Preston had previously appeared on Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main St.; on "100 Years Ago," he plays inspired clavinet, and on "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)," he doubles the clavinet with piano. Speaking of…

Minor Hit "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" Remains Satisfying

Despite its kicked-up tempo, "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" doesn’t exactly rock; it simmers and hovers.

Lyrically, it presents mirror examples of urban tragedy: a young man shot by police in a case of mistaken identity, and a 10-year girl who ODs in an alley. But a ripped-from-the-headlines "Hurricane"-style story song it isn’t.

Decades later, Jagger denied any specific, real-world inspiration, chalking it up to "New York as a violent place. America as a heavy-handed police state.

"We can go back 100 years and it's probably even heavier," Jagger continued. "Obviously, all that time ago it was heavy in a lot of places, heavy now and heavy before."

"Angie" Is Immortal For Very Good Reasons

Who is Angie? Is it Angela Bowie? Marianne Faithfull?

This talk can safely be consigned to the rock lore archives, as it’s beside the point: "Angie" is simply a gorgeous song. (Although your mileage may vary with Jagger’s whispering.) 

For an expert appraisal of what makes this majestic — and wildly popular — single tick, check out Rick Beato’s analytical YouTube video, for his What Makes This Song Great? series.

Much Of The Bluster Had Worn Off

Yes, we come to the Stones for cocksurity and bravado, but it’s arguably even more interesting when those qualities lose their luster.

Take two of the most horny cuts: "Silver Train" is about a prostitute; "Star Star" is about a groupie. But rather than sound hyped-up, they sound fragile, like machismo is an old costume that didn’t fit them at that moment.

Giles Martin Has Freshened Up Goats Head Soup

As a Beatles remixer, Giles Martin didn’t fall far from the tree; his father, of course, was iconic Fabs producer George Martin.

After making his mark with Sgt. Pepper’s, Abbey Road and the like, Martin has begun working with other camps — the Stones included.

His 2020 remix of Goats Head Soup wipes away the grime and reveals its vulnerable, autumnal heart. Truly, despite its mixed-bag reputation, this stew has never been so savory.

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Touring In A Post-Pandemic World: How Costs, Personnel & Festival Culture Have Affected 2023 Performances
Crowds at the 2023 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella


Touring In A Post-Pandemic World: How Costs, Personnel & Festival Culture Have Affected 2023 Performances

The live music business is still dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic. spoke with a cross section of professionals about the industry's most profound changes, how they’re being addressed, and what it all might mean for the future.

GRAMMYs/May 19, 2023 - 02:51 pm

The pandemic wreaked global havoc on many levels. Beyond the human toll, the disruptions brought on by the spread of COVID-19 caused deep and lasting damage to nearly every business sector, including live entertainment. Virtually overnight, workers lost their livelihoods, businesses closed their doors or drastically curtailed operations, and supply chains were hobbled. 

Within days of lockdown, multiple outlets published sobering articles detailing the tours, concerts and festivals that had been affected by the outbreak; article identified at least 170 postponements or cancellations. In a flash, every artist across the globe witnessed the live performance side of their careers vaporize. Crews were sent home, and all of the businesses that served the sector — logistics, audio gear, food service and more — found a barren landscape.

During the pandemic, major promoter Live Nation saw a drastic drop in the number of concerts and festivals under its banner: from over 40,000 events in 2019 to just over 8,000 in 2020. But by the end of 2022, reported that the year’s top 100 tours sold approximately 59 million tickets — more than 2019's sales. 

Three years after the beginning of the pandemic, life is in many ways returning to normal. Yet the costs associated with putting on a concert have risen dramatically, due to both the pandemic's inflationary pressures and a surge in demand for the goods and services necessary to sustain tours. For those working in and around the live music business, the "new normal" means some things work as they did before COVID-19 while others have altered radically — either temporarily or for good. spoke with a cross section of industry professionals about some of the most profound changes, how they’re being addressed, and what it all might mean for the future. 

New Touring Paradigms

With the return of live music has come a corresponding, pent-up surge in demand, notes Christy Castillo Butcher, Senior VP, Programming & Booking at the 70,000 seat SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. "To satiate that demand, you have to have a bigger venue." 

In 2023 alone, SoFi Stadium is hosting several megashows: Billy Joel & Stevie Nicks, Grupo Firme, Romeo Santos, a five-night Taylor Swift residency, Metallica, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran and P!nk are all on the venue’s calendar, with additional shows awaiting announcement. Madison Square Garden saw multiple sold-out performances by Janet Jackson, and will host a seven-night Phish residency. 

Since the pandemic, some artists have taken different approaches to touring. Tandem tours and residencies are just two of the phenomena that seem to be increasing in popularity with touring artists and their management teams.

Teaming up for a tandem tour isn’t a new idea; package tours have been part of the concert landscape from the days of Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars in the mid 1960s. And in an era when post-pandemic-related shortages and logistical snags make touring even more challenging, the practice is finding renewed interest.

One of the highest-profile tandem tours of 2023 is the ZZ Top/Lynyrd Skynyrd Sharp Dressed Simple Man tour. Visiting more than 22 cities across the U.S, the tour brings together three-time GRAMMY nominees ZZ Top with the popular Southern rock band.

"You want to give the fans the value of seeing two bands together," says Ross Schilling, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Tour Manager. (Pollstar reported an average ticket price for the top 100 North American tours in the first half of 2022 at more than $108. Meanwhile, ticket prices for megastars such as Beyoncé and Swift have reached astronomical levels.)

Schilling acknowledges that there are pros and cons for the artists as well. "You're sharing the expenses and the revenues," he notes, adding that the production is often halved. "Video, pyro, smoke, whatever kind of elements you want to add" can be shared on a tandem tour.

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Another option experiencing a renaissance is the concert residency. "Residencies are not new, of course," says Phil Carson, a touring and management veteran who spent many years on the road with high-profile rock bands including Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, AC/DC and Yes. "They started with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. when there was really only one place to go: Las Vegas." 

Today there are many more options, but the motivations are often the same as before. "Sammy, Dean Martin… all those guys wanted to hang out together, and didn't want to go on the bloody road," Carson explains. As their audiences grew older, they too were interested in the idea of going to one place to see their favorite performers.

And Carson thinks that the multi-night approach may well be part of a trend for the future. "We’re starting to get two-and three-night runs in casinos across America," he says. Adele, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood and Carlos Santana are just a few of the artists eschewing the road in favor of a series of dates in one venue. 

The trend is extending to smaller venues as well. Singer/songwriter James McMutry and his band launched a residency at Austin' Continental Club in November 2021; that booking continues to the present day. And just last August, Robert Glasper announced a 48-show residency at the Blue Note Club in New York City; it’s his fourth extended run of dates at the famed jazz venue.

Festivals Return En Force

Following increased demand for live entertainment post-lockdown, major music festivals returned with a force in 2022 and continue to do so in 2023. Coachella and Lollapalooza were among the multi-day, multi-weekend events returning after COVID-forced cancellations, while mid-level events such as San Francisco's Outside Lands also saw over 220,000 attendees in 2022 — a major boon for a live music industry that had been in crisis only a year before.

Celebrating and featuring a multigenerational lineup of Latinx artists and performers, the Bésame Mucho Festival premiered in December 2022 at the 56,000 capacity Dodger Stadium. Tickets sold out within 70 minutes. The lineup for the 2023 event was announced in February; once again, the event sold out almost immediately.

Read more: Latin Music's Next Era: How New Festivals & Big Billings Have Helped Bring Reggaeton, New Corridos & More To The Masses

Ashley Capps has been wholly immersed in the festival scene; former head of AC Entertainment, for many years he oversaw the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. These days he has scaled back his activities but still curates the adventurous Big Ears Festival which he founded in 2009 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

"The post-pandemic Big Ears has seen extraordinary growth," he says, noting a pre-COVID trajectory of growth, with an annual 20 percent increase in ticket sales. The 2022 Big Ears — the first after a two-year pause — experienced a 35 percent growth. "That led us to declare our first full-on sellout," he says, "five weeks before the festival happened." 

In 2023, Big Ears noted another surge in ticket sales, surpassing 50 percent over the previous year. The multiple-venue festival added additional larger venues to accommodate the increased demand. Concertgoers "are certainly hungry to get back into the live music experience," Capps says. "And the artists we’re working with at Big Ears are eager to be back out and in front of appreciative audiences."

That pent-up demand on both sides of the equation can result in a crowded field, with many events — even beyond music — competing both for attention, staffing and gear.

The Cost Of Making Music

Global logistical bottlenecks that plagued every industry continue to take a toll on the live music industry. Worldwide economic inflation — which hit 8.8 percent in 2022, nearly doubling year-over-year, a partial result of the pandemic — has increased costs and cut profits, laying the groundwork for a "rocky road to recovery." Finding themselves without opportunities for work during the pandemic, untold numbers of skilled tour technicians left the business. 

"People got out of the industry across the board, from musicians to agents to managers to bartenders to production staff," says Morgan Margolis, CEO/President of Knitting Factory Entertainment. "'I’ve got to do something else.' I saw a lot of that." Some never returned, causing a personnel shortage once live touring resumed.

All that affected live music venues, too. "We were shuffling around tour managers, production managers, box office personnel," says Margolis. He characterizes his company — active nationwide in venue operations, festivals, artist management, touring and more — as an "all hands on deck" operation. "I actually slung some drinks in Walla Walla at an Aaron Lewis concert," he says. 

Increased costs mean it’s essential to run the leanest operation possible while maintaining quality. Margolis recalls the landscape when live music started coming back in 2022. "Vans and buses: everything was running out, even rental cars," he remembers. "And everything — generators, lighting rigs, staging rigs – was now 20-30 percent more expensive, because everybody was spread so thin."  

But like many in the business, Margolis simply made the best of things. "Personally, I was excited to be on the ground again," he says. "I wanted to be around people." 

After a nearly overwhelming surge of music artists getting back into live performance, he says that he is seeing a "more methodical" mindset taking hold. That compares to how he characterizes 2022: "Throw it all against the wall: we’re going everywhere!"

Read more: Beyond Coachella: 10 Smaller Festivals Beloved For Their Homegrown Vibes & Huge Lineups

Another new wrinkle: proposed rule changes by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would increase the costs to international musicians of obtaining a U.S. visa by as much as 260 percent. "The more these policies are made, the harder it is for us to share our music,” says Sampa the Great. The Zambian singer/songwriter and rapper notes that the proposed changes will hit independent artists especially hard: "Touring is the only way our music gets heard globally."

Such across-the-board cost increases can mean that some international artists have to have tough conversations. If not through touring, Sampa the Great wonders, "How else do we connect with the people who support our music? And how else do we independent artists sustain our careers making music?"

Schilling admits that during the worst of the shutdown, he thought about retiring — and so did one of his biggest clients. Skynyrd began a farewell tour in 2018, which was ultimately cut short by the pandemic, prompting serious soul searching. "When everyone’s livelihood was ripped out from under them, they decided 'We want to go out on our own terms.'" This year’s tandem tour with ZZ Top puts things right, Schilling adds. 

That kind of thinking is widespread among the professionals who remain in the game post-COVID. From many working as venue owners to tour managers to crew to artists, the chance to get back on the road outweighs the challenges that they will inevitably encounter. There are many career paths easier than working in the live music industry, but few can compare with its rewards.

Changes Backstage And Post-Show

Before the pandemic, many touring artists arranged meet-and-greet sessions before or after their shows. They provided an opportunity for interaction between fans and artists, and represented an additional revenue stream for the artists. During the pandemic era, those sessions disappeared, even for the new shows that could still take place. Today, even while enforced social distancing has largely disappeared, the state of meet-and-greets is not what it was. 

"My last three artists aren’t doing meet-and-greets, because there's still that concern of COVID," says David Norman, a longtime promoter, tour director, manager and accountant currently on tour with Evanescence; his past clients have included Prince, John Fogerty, Earth Wind & Fire, Green Day, Alicia Keys, Tyler, the Creator and many others. 

Norman points out that his artists take a financial hit by eliminating the meet-and-greets. "But it’s better to be safe than sorry," he says, noting that a musician who tests positive for COVID can "shut down [performances] for weeks. Then you have to reroute [the tour], and refund money to people who aren’t able to come to rescheduled shows."

Others take a different approach. "Lynyrd Skynyrd will do meet-and-greets," says Schilling, adding that his team "wants to get back to as normal as we possibly can, as fast as we possibly can." André Cholmondeley is a musician, longtime tour manager and tech support professional who worked as guitar tech for Yes guitarist Steve Howe

Before 2020, "if you bought the meet-and-greet package, you could shake their hands," he says. "There were lots of hugs and pictures." Now the experience involves more waving and fist-bumping. Foreigner, meanwhile, has recently swapped meet-and-greets for Q&A sessions. “Everybody has a great time, and the band is not bored with it because it's different every night," says Phil Carson, the band's Tour Manager. 

Life away from the audience has changed, too. 

"One major change across the board is the huge difference in catering," says Cholmondeley, who has recently toured with Pat Metheny and Ani DiFranco. Before COVID, touring artists and their crews would typically find a buffet backstage. "We order a lot more food now," Cholmondeley explains. "You get a couple of menus texted to you each day."

Carson notes that the band has found an alternative solution that works for them. "Our singer Kelly Hansen is a chef who won an episode of Food Network’s 'Chopped,'" he says with pride. "He's got a whole kitchen range on our tour bus. He makes breakfast, he makes tacos after the show." 

Carson readily admits that such an approach stands in sharp contrast to rock‘n’roll road dining in the ‘70s. "Back then," he says with a hearty laugh, "it was a few lines of coke and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s!"

Bridging The Gap

Beginning in March 2020, the cancellations and disruptions brought upon by the pandemic reverberated throughout the live music industry. But as the business sector enters the third quarter of 2023, the focus is once again on the future, and guarded optimism is the prevailing perspective. 

Festival season is officially underway, with Coachella wrapping up two weekends of massive-scale excitement, and a host of other events slated throughout the summer promising an active several months for touring musicians and crews. Taylor Swift's Eras tour is selling out fast, while Beyoncé's Renaissance tour has only just begun (to much fanfare, as expected). It seems as if touring as we once knew it is falling back into place. 

Even with her focus on recording — she counts two albums, an EP, two mixtapes and nearly 30 singles — Sampa the Great emphasizes the appeal of live music for both audience and entertainer. 

"Performing is the best way to connect with an audience," she says. "You're translating your music from audio to something visual, something physical. It bridges that gap from just hearing an artist or seeing them on social [media] to actually experiencing the artist." 

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10 Record Store Day Releases You Need This Year: Taylor Swift, Nas, Dolly Parton & More
Nas performing in 2002, the year of his now-iconic Webster Hall performance that will be available on vinyl as part of Record Store Day 2023.

Photo: L. Cohen/WireImage


10 Record Store Day Releases You Need This Year: Taylor Swift, Nas, Dolly Parton & More

Celebrate Record Store Day this April 22 by stocking up on new, exclusive LPs from Taylor Swift, Björk, The Rolling Stones and more at your local participating record store.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2023 - 02:34 pm

From Post Malone to Peppa Pig vinyls, record stores around the world are stocking up on limited exclusive releases for Record Store Day 2023.

Held annually every April since 2007, the event honors independently owned record stores and the unity of fans and artists. This year, many stores will globally welcome more than 300 limited, exclusive records ranging from rock to jazz to rap on April 22.

With former official ambassadors including Taylor Swift, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Jack White, Chuck D, and St. Vincent, Record Store Day celebrates music of all genres. And that's exactly the case with this year's lineup of special releases, spanning from Miles Davis to Beach House.

In honor of Record Store Day 2023, get excited about these 10 limited, exclusive releases dropping in your local participating store.

The 1975 — I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it: Live With The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

Serving as the official Record Store Day UK Ambassadors this year, the 1975 take us back to 2016 with their second LP, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it — this time, along with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. Available for the first time on double clear vinyl, this orchestral version of the British rock band's second studio album also features a version of their breakout hit, "Chocolate."

Miles Davis — TURNAROUND: Unreleased Rare Vinyl from On the Corner

Miles Davis' album On the Corner celebrated its 50th birthday last October, and its innovation takes yet another turn on Record Store Day. Titled Turnaround, this sky-blue vinyl features four cuts from the expanded 2007 album The Complete On The Corner Sessions, also offering appearances from Herbie Hancock, Dave Liebman and Bennie Maupin.

Björk — the fossora remixes

Fill your record collection with some flora and fauna — natural, eccentric scarlet and green patterns adorn each vinyl sleeve of Björk's exclusive the fossora remixes. The release features two dynamic songs: A1 Ovule featuring Shygirl (Sega Bodega remix) and A2 Atopos (sideproject remix).

Beach House — Become

Fourteen months after psychedelic pop duo Beach House unveiled their eighth studio album, Once Twice Melody, they continue the story with a new EP. Titled Become, the five-song project — which is available on crystal-clear vinyl on Record Store Day — features five formerly unreleased songs from their 2022 LP.

Nas — Made You Look: God's Son Live 2002

Just over 20 years ago, Nas gave a spectacular performance at Webster Hall in New York City, further solidifying his status as a legend of East Coast hip-hop. The spirited 20-song concert now appears on vinyl for the first time, with familiar artwork calling back to its original DVD release in 2003.

Dolly Parton — The Monument Singles Collection 1964-1968

More than six decades into her career, Dolly Parton joins the Record Store Day fun with a celebration of her early years. The country legend's remastered singles from the 1960s are hitting record store shelves, and the special first-time collection also features liner notes from two-time GRAMMY nominee Holly George-Warren.

The Rolling Stones — Beggars Banquet

As the Rolling Stones sang of "a swirling mass of grey, blue, black, and white" on "Salt Of The Earth," the rock band's upcoming limited vinyl for Beggars Banquet will be pressed with a swirl pattern of the same four colors in tribute. The group merges classic rock with their blues roots on Beggars Banquet, and the vinyl of their 1968 critically-acclaimed album features the original artwork and window display poster.

Taylor Swift — folklore: the long pond studio sessions

In September 2020, Taylor Swift's GRAMMY-winning album folklore was reimagined at New York's Long Pond Studio with a pair of the singer's closest collaborators, Aaron Dessner (The National) and Jack Antonoff (fun./Bleachers). And in November that year, fans got to witness those sessions in a Disney+ documentary. Now, more than two years later, the serene album's acoustic studio sessions are available on vinyl for the first time, including four sides and bonus track "the lakes."

'Ol Dirty Bastard — Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version

ODB's memory lives on in the vinyl rerelease of his iconic 1995 debut album, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version. Featuring the 2020 remasters of 15 tracks, this drop is the first posthumous release from ODB since 2011, but not the first time fans have heard his voice since then: SZA's SOS track "Forgiveless" concludes with a previously unreleased verse from the late rapper.

Donna Summer — A Hot Summer Night (40th Anniversary Edition)

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Donna Summer's momentous Hard For The Money Tour. This exclusive vinyl celebrates the Queen of Disco in all her glory, capturing her live concert at Costa Mesa's Pacific Amphitheatre from August 1983. The vinyl offers performances by special guests Musical Youth, her sisters Dara and Mary Ellen, and her eldest daughter Mimi.

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11 Electric Coachella Surprise Guest Moments From Weekend 1: Post Malone, Billie Eilish, Rauw Alejandro & More
Rauw Alejandro comes out as surprise guest at Coachella 2023 during fiancé Rosalía's set.

Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella


11 Electric Coachella Surprise Guest Moments From Weekend 1: Post Malone, Billie Eilish, Rauw Alejandro & More

Weekend 1 of Coachella 2023 has come and gone, but not without countless surprises and viral moments. Take a look at some of the most exhilarating surprise guests — from Billie Eilish and Rauw Alejandro — from one of the year's biggest music festivals.

GRAMMYs/Apr 17, 2023 - 08:05 pm

As delightfully dizzying as its famous ferris wheel, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival fills Indio's Colorado Desert with never-ending fun.

This year, Coachella booked history-making headliners Bad Bunny, BLACKPINK, and Frank Ocean, along with more than 150 other artists to perform across six stages. But one of the festival's most exciting parts, however, is its surprise performers.

The first weekend of Coachella is traditionally known for its big surprises and busy crowds — and this year didn't disappoint, offering surprise performances from global superstars to underground darlings.

From Tyler, The Creator to The Weeknd, here are some of the standout surprise guests from Coachella Weekend 1.

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Metro Boomin Astonished With Not One, But 7 Star Guests

In perhaps the most star-studded performance of the weekend, Metro Boomin welcomed a slew of collaborators to color his already spectacular set at the Sahara Tent. Throughout the night, The Weeknd, Future, 21 Savage, Don Toliver, Diddy, John Legend, and Mike Dean all joined the producer on stage to perform highlights from Heroes & Villains, Savage Mode, and more. Metro Boomin ended the evening with a live debut of "Creepin" alongside 21 Savage and Diddy.

MUNA Brought Out boygenius For "Silk Chiffon"

Life's so fun, life's so fun. While many festival goers anticipated Phoebe Bridgers to join MUNA for their bubbly collaboration "Silk Chiffon," the band shocked their audience by bringing out not just Bridgers, but Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus as well — all members of the supergroup boygenius, who performed their own lively set at Coachella the next day.

Bad Bunny Tapped Post Malone, Jhayco & More Stars

Now a headliner four years after making his Coachella debut, Bad Bunny made sure to pull out all the stops for his highly-anticipated performance. The Puerto Rican superstar brought out Post Malone for guitar-driven renditions of “La Canción” and “Yonaguni"; Jhayco (and a jet ski) for “Dákiti”; and Ñengo Flow and Jowell & Randy for “Safaera.”

Among Many Guests, Gorillaz Brought Out De La Soul To Dedicate "Feel Good Inc." To Late David Jolicoeur

On the festival's main stage, Gorillaz brightened their already glowing set with many surprise stars. Thundercat appeared first for "Cracker Island," shortly followed by individual performers Peven Everett, Jamie Principle, Bootie Brown, and Slowthai.

De La Soul appeared for their collaboration "Feel Good Inc.," dedicating the song to their late member, David ‘Trugoy The Dove’ Jolicoeur. For the closer "Clint Eastwood," Del The Funky Homosapien returned to the stage, after assisting with "Rock The House" earlier in the set.

Becky G Enlisted Marca MP, Jesús Ortiz Paz, Peso Pluma & Natti Natasha

Becky G made her Coachella debut this year, and she made sure to fill her 45-minute set with several guest stars. Marca MP joined her for “Ya Acabó," and Jesús Ortiz Paz of Fuerza Regida sang “Te Quiero Besar" and "Bebe Dame" alongside the star. Fans went wild when Peso Pluma showed up to perform his collaboration “Chanel," and after an outfit change, Becky G welcomed Natti Natasha for their joint track “Sin Pijama.”

Kali Uchis Amazed With Tyler, The Creator, Omar Apollo & Don Toliver

Kali Uchis' performances are always magical, and her surprise guests helped enchant audiences during her Coachella set. Tyler, The Creator joined Uchis to perform their Flower Boy collaboration “See You Again,” and later, Omar Apollo and Don Toliver took the stage to perform "Worth the Wait" and “Fantasy" respectively, both duets from her hypnotic latest album Red Moon In Venus.

Charli XCX And Troye Sivan Took It Back To "1999"

For one of the last few explosive shows of her CRASH era, Charli XCX brought the lightning by inviting Troye Sivan on stage to perform their poppy joint song "1999." Donning shades and silver accessories, the close friends and collaborators wore all-black attire but still shined during their shared performance.

DOMi & JD Beck Welcomed Mac DeMarco & Thundercat

During their bouncy set on Friday, innovative jazz duo DOMi & JD Beck surprised with two high-profile guests: Mac DeMarco and Thundercat. At the Mojave Tent, the four celebrated DOMi & JD Beck's bright debut album NOT TIGHT.

Rosalía Shared Stage With Fiancé Rauw Alejandro

Partway through an already invigorating, dance-filled set, Rosalía took her show to a new level: her fiancé, Rauw Alejandro, joined her to perform "Beso" and "Vampiros" from their joint EP RR. The music video for the former song announced the global superstar couple's engagement last month, showing off Rosalía’s stunning diamond ring.

Ellie Goulding Was The "Miracle" Calvin Harris' Set Needed

With his set starting around midnight, Calvin Harris was just getting Coachella's party started on Saturday. After playing several high-profile collaboration mixes, Harris finally introduced his one guest of the evening — and a major one at that. Frequent collaborator Ellie Goulding appeared to perform "Miracle," the duo's single that dropped last month.

Labrinth Surprised Everyone With Billie Eilish

Loneliness didn't last long at Labrinth's Saturday set. The singer's massive crowd was pleased to see former Coachella headliner Billie Eilish stop by to perform the pair's latest collaboration, "Never Felt So Alone." The track originally premiered on HBO's Euphoria, and Labrinth and Eilish made its live debut at Eilish's headline show at California's Kia Forum back in December.

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