MUSIC

From SXSW to Coachella, Will the Coronavirus Kill Live Music in 2020?

With a recent spate of cancellations and mounting fear of an emerging pandemic, the near-future of live music is in doubt.

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UPDATE:

Both SXSW and Coachella have been canceled, with the latter beung technically postponed until October. Coachella organizers released a statement on March 10:

At the direction of the County of Riverside and local health authorities, we must sadly confirm the rescheduling of Coachella and Stagecoach due to COVID-19 concerns. While this decision comes at a time of universal uncertainty, we take the safety and health of our guests, staff and community very seriously. We urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials.

Coachella will now take place on October 9, 10 and 11 and October 16, 17 and 18, 2020. Stagecoach will take place on October 23, 24 and 25, 2020. All purchases for the April dates will be honored for the rescheduled October dates. Purchasers will be notified by Friday, March 13 on how to obtain a refund if they are unable to attend.

Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you in the desert this fall.

Less than a week prior, for the first time in 34 years, SXSW was canceled by the city of Austin, citing public safety concerns over the coronavirus.

There's something so special about seeing music live.

The energy from the crowd all around you. Thousands of bodies pressed together—moving in rhythm, sharing one voice, one breath, and one expanding cloud of viral pathogens…

Is it even really a concert or a music festival if you aren't making forced physical contact with two to five strangers at all times? With fears around the nascent coronavirus pandemic already disrupting tourism—Disney is forecasting tens of millions in losses from drops in park attendance—and leading to the cancellation and closure of various large, public events and venues, the thought of a music festival is starting to seem like a relic of a simpler time.

Louvre Coronavirus Chesnot/Getty Images

All across the globe people are stocking up on dry goods and hand sanitizer and avoiding crowds as much as possible. So-called "self-isolating" is not just for binge-watching TV shows anymore, it's become actual medical advice along with "social distancing," which adds impossible precautions like maintaining six feet of physical distance when navigating public spaces. Tokyo all but canceled their yearly marathon, and it remains to be seen whether the city will be hosting the summer Olympics as planned. While apps and websites launch to help people avoid crowds, the Louvre is finally reopening in Paris this week with added precautions to protect staff and visitors.

In the US, the first real test of the new state of things will be taking place in Austin from March 13-22. South By Southwest—the annual amalgam of music, tech, and media events—is slated to begin next Friday, and it would normally be expected to draw attendance of more than 150,000. But events are already being canceled. Apple confirmed on Wednesday that it will be joining Netflix, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook in pulling back from scheduled events amid calls to cancel altogether. Meanwhile Austin's Public Health offices released a statement posted on the SXSW website saying that "no health departments in the state have requested the cancellation of any gatherings as the current risk of person-to-person spread in their jurisdictions remains low."

If that statement turns out to be correct—and attendance is not substantially affected by mounting fear and the slew of cancellations—then perhaps Coachella will proceed as normal from April 10-19 in Indo, California. With an impressive lineup including Rage Against the Machine, Frank Ocean, Travis Scott, Run the Jewels, and Lana Del Rey, that's certainly what a lot of people are hoping. But if attendance tanks, or if even one new case of COVID-19 ends up being traced to Austin during SXSW, it seems unlikely that Coachella will take place without some major adjustments.

sxsw SXSW

Some companies are looking at the prospect of monitoring attendee's temperatures at the entrance to festivals, but there is reason to believe that this method has limited value, and with people practically living on top of each other for days on end—breathing the same air and swapping all manner of fluids—even one sociable carrier could quickly lead to a mass outbreak among nearly 100,000 daily attendees at Coachella. The venue has already proven to be an impressive petri dish for other diseases. Now imagine the Japanese cruise ship quarantine, except it's a crowd of underdressed Instagram influencers sharing not enough porta-potties.

Inside China, the rate of new infections is rapidly dropping. If that trend extends to the rest of the world, then perhaps there won't be a need for concern much longer. But if new cases continue to crop up as they have in California, Washington, New York and elsewhere, will bands even be willing to perform in mass venues? What if conditions worsen? Already, some live performances have been converted to livestreams from empty venues. Will that be the model for live performances in 2020?

There is an outside chance that as the seasons change the threat of the coronavirus may recede (or migrate to the southern hemisphere), in which case current concerns about the death of live music may be overblown. If the incidence rate drops in time for the Bonnaroo, Governors Ball, and Lollapalooza, then maybe live music can survive this brush with modern pestilence. On the other hand, if vaccine research doesn't proceed at a rapid pace, outbreaks could recur just in time for the fall and Austin City Limits from October 2-11. Tough year for Austin...

For anyone who's already committed to a crowded public event, the best advice is just to be aware of your vulnerabilities, to keep your hands clean, and to cough into the crook of your elbow. Also, use a condom. Good luck.

CULTURE

8 Celebrities Who Peaked Before They Were Famous

Because it turns out celebrities exist even before we hear about them.

So many celebrities seem to build their entire lives around careers in entertainment.

Good for them. They knew what they wanted to do, and they were actually lucky and talented enough to be successful. But for a lot of these people, it's hard to imagine how they would function in the world without their celebrity status. That's why people freak out when they find out that Taylor Swift can cook. She not only eats people food, she actually knows how to prepare it! Do you think she even washes her own dishes?!

But there is another class of celebrity. People who had full, interesting, and often insane lives before anyone had ever heard of them. People like...

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Certain musicians are blessed with the ability to hear, see, feel, or taste music, a variant of the neurological condition known as synesthesia.

While you don't need to have synesthesia in order to be a great musician, there seems to be a significant correlation between musicians capable of creating exceptionally impactful tunes and those who perceive sound in color. Here are some of the most noteworthy musicians with synesthesia:

Frank Ocean

Anyone who's heard Frank Ocean's Blonde knows that the album exists in more than one dimension, and this isn't an accident. Ocean sees colors associated with his music, and his album Channel Orange was inspired by the color he saw when he first fell in love (which was, obviously, orange).

Pink Matter www.youtube.com


Lorde

Extra Minutes | How Lorde sees sound as colour www.youtube.com

Lorde has described synesthesia as a driving force behind all her music, and like Ocean, she has sound-to-color synesthesia, which means all music has a color in her mind. "If a song's colors are too oppressive or ugly, sometimes I won't want to work on it," she once told MTV. "When we first started 'Tennis Court' we just had that pad playing the chords, and it was the worst textured tan colour, like really dated, and it made me feel sick, and then we figured out that prechorus and I started the lyric, and the song changed to all these incredible greens overnight!"

Lorde - Green Light www.youtube.com

Stevie Wonder

Even though he's blind, the musical legend and innovator Stevie Wonder can see the colors of his music in his head, which might explain why his music sounds so vast and rich.

Stevie Wonder - Moon Blue www.youtube.com

Billy Joel

The "Piano Man" singer can see the colors of the music that he plays, and it sounds like his perception is influenced by tempo and mood. "When I think of different types of melodies which are slower or softer, I think in terms of blues or greens," he said. "When I [see] a particularly vivid color, it is usually a strong melodic, strong rhythmic pattern which emerges at the same time," he said. "When I think of these songs, I think of vivid reds, oranges, and golds."

Billy Joel - Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (Official Audio) www.youtube.com


Kanye West

The brilliant musician and recently born-again Christian once said that all his music has a visual component. "Everything I sonically make is a painting," he said. "I see it. I see the importance and the value of everyone being able to experience a more beautiful life."

Kanye West - All Of The Lights ft. Rihanna, Kid Cudi www.youtube.com

For West, visuals need to be compatible with the colors he hears in his head. "I see music in color and shapes and all and it's very important for me when I'm performing or doing a video that the visuals match up with the music – the colors, y'know," he said. "A lot of times it's a lonely piano [that] can look like a black and white visual to fit that emotion, even though pianos are blue to me and bass and snares are white; bass lines are like dark brown, dark purple."

No Church In The Wild www.youtube.com


Pharrell Williams

The "Happy" singer (a yellow song if there ever was one) has been open about his synesthesia, and he has a very in-depth way of perceiving musical color. "There are seven basic colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet," he said. And those also correspond with musical notes…White, believe it or not, which gives you an octave is the blending of all the colors…" So that means chords would be blends of different shades, and harmonies would likely involve the blending of compatible colors. For Pharrell, synesthesia is instrumental to his creative process and to his worldview at large. "It's my only reference for understanding," he said. "I don't think I would have what some people would call talent and what I would call a gift. The ability to see and feel [this way] was a gift given to me that I did not have to have. And if it was taken from me suddenly I'm not sure that I could make music. I wouldn't be able to keep up with it. I wouldn't have a measure to understand."

Pharrell Williams - Happy (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

Duke Ellington

For the jazz great, individual notes also have different colors—but their exact shades depend on who's playing them, not the note itself. "I hear a note by one of the fellows in the band and it's one color. I hear the same note played by someone else and it's a different color," he said. In addition to associating music with colors, he also sees sound as texture. "When I hear sustained musical tones, I see just about the same colors that you do, but I see them in textures," he added. "If Harry Carney is playing, D is dark blue burlap. If Johnny Hodges is playing, G becomes light blue satin."

Duke Ellington - Blue Feeling www.youtube.com

Tori Amos

From the sound of things, Tori Amos experiences music in a very dreamlike and psychedelic way. The singer-songwriter and piano prodigy has said that songwriting feels like chasing after light. "The song appears as light filament once I've cracked it. As long as I've been doing this, which is more than 35 years, I've never seen a duplicated song structure. I've never seen the same light creature in my life. Obviously, similar chord progressions follow similar light patterns…try to imagine the best kaleidoscope ever."

16 Shades of Blue www.youtube.com


Dev Hynes

After hearing Blood Orange's saturated, vivid sonic craftsmanship, it's not hard to believe that its creator is synesthetic. However, for Dev Hynes, synesthesia isn't a walk in the park. "Imagine color streamers just bouncing around," he explained. "It's hard for me to focus at times because there's a lot of things floating around, pulling me away. Situations can become very overbearing and overwhelming."

Blood Orange - Dark & Handsome | A COLORS SHOW www.youtube.com


Charli XCX

Synesthesia helps Charli XCX curate and shape her songs, and apparently, the pop queen favors sweeter, brighter colors. "I see music in colors. I love music that's black, pink, purple or red - but I hate music that's green, yellow or brown," she said.

Charli XCX - Silver Cross [Official Audio] www.youtube.com


Mary J. Blige

"I have that condition, synesthesia. I see music in colors. That's how my synesthesia plays out," singer, rapper, actress, and legend Mary J. Blige explained succinctly.

Mary J. Blige - Be Without You (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com


Marina Diamandis

The former star of Marina and the Diamonds (who now goes by only Marina) apparently can see sound as color, but she also associates certain colors with days of the week. Her synesthesia also sometimes causes her to associate music with scents. "Mine usually only expresses itself in color association but I do smell strange scents out of the blue for no reason," she's said.

MARINA - Orange Trees [Official Music Video] www.youtube.com


Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell

In Billie Eilish's technicolor universe, every sense bleeds into everything else, and things like numbers and days of the week have their own color palettes. "I think visually first with everything I do, and also I have synesthesia, so everything that I make I'm already thinking of what color it is, and what texture it is, and what day of the week it is, and what number it is, and what shape," she said in a YouTube Music video. "We both have it [she and brother, Finneas O'Connell], so we think about everything this way."

Billie Eilish - Ocean Eyes (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

Alessia Cara

Alessia Cara thought that synesthesia was just something everybody had, until she realized not everyone could see sounds. "I didn't know that synesthesia was something that was, I guess, only a thing for some people," she said. "I thought that everybody kind of experienced it. So for me, it was just a natural pairing to my music. Everything audible was visual to me, and it still is. And so I think when I write, it's kind of cool to listen back and say, 'Well, this song feels kind of purple' — if a certain drum sound sounds purple and the song feels purple, then I know that they kind of match. It just really helps me figure out the whole package of a song." And like Kanye West, her synesthesia influences her visual content. "Even with videos — it helps me figure out what I want to do music video-wise," she added. "So it's definitely a strong aspect of my writing."

Alessia Cara - Ready (Lyric Video) www.youtube.com


Franz Liszt

Synesthesia isn't reserved for 20th and 21st century legends. Many classical musicians possessed synesthetic abilities, such as the composer Franz Liszt, who apparently used to ask orchestra members to make their tone qualities "bluer" and would say things like, "That is a deep violet, please, depend on it! Not so rose!" While orchestra members thought he was joking, they soon realized that the musician could actually see colors in the music he created.

Franz Liszt - Liebestraum - Love Dream www.youtube.com

MUSIC

FKA twigs Sword Fights and Pole Dances to Purge Heartbreak in Brooklyn

At Kings Theatre, FKA twigs served crowds the most emo pole dancing music of all time.

At Brooklyn's Kings Theatre, FKA twigs performed magnificent physical and vocal feats and mesmerized a massive audience with her technical acumen and emotional intensity.

During the show, she tap-danced, pole-danced, hit operatic high notes, and even demonstrated an incredible sword-fighting sequence during a musical interlude in the middle of her song "sad day." The show consisted of innumerable costume changes and intricate choreography, mirrored by four talented backup dancers and soundtracked by three impressive instrumentalists. Though she began the show solo, the dancers and musicians slowly became more and more incorporated into the act until they all moved together as a single entity, eventually ending the performance in an embrace.

FKA Twigs - Sad Day (Live with Sword Dance) Paris We Love Green 2019 www.youtube.com

Twigs was promoting her new album, Magdalene, and she fully leaned into its theatrical and biblical imagery, sporting a variety of traditional, religious, and regal costumes as well as barely-there lingerie for her pole dancing routine. Throughout it all, there was not a single misstep or missed note, but there was one underlying dissonance: How could Robert Pattinson possibly have let someone like twigs slip away? The kind of desperation in twigs' Magdalene songs also seems to be asking this very question. If I can reach such heights, and inspire such devotion from audiences, she seemed to be screaming throughout the show, why don't I do it for you?

Though undeniably impressive, the show may have been better suited to a smaller theatre. During moments of silence, audience members kept screaming and shouting up to the stage, distracting from the show. Then again, it's hard to ask an audience of that size to keep quiet, especially when witnessing someone with twigs' star power.

FKA Twigs - "Mary Magdalene" + "Home With You" LIVE! from the House of Blues Boston 11/19/19 www.youtube.com

Perhaps aware that she wouldn't be able to get a word in edgewise without someone shouting, twigs only spoke to the audience a few times, once to greet the crowd and once to ask a series of pointed questions. "How many people came here alone? How many people are single? How many people have had their hearts broken?" she asked, waiting for hands to raise between each question, laughing at the enthusiasm of New York City's affirmative responses. "Well, I have."

It was a moment of rare intimacy and rawness which reminded the crowd that, in spite of her superhuman physical and artistic abilities, twigs struggles as much as the rest of us with matters of the heart.

FKA twigs - Cellophane www.youtube.com

Music Lists

Naomi Campbell Lashes Out at ELLE Germany: “We Are Not a Trend”

The magazine put out an ill-advised campaign that proclaimed "Black is back."

ELLE Germany has come under fire for a new editorial campaign called "Black Is Back," which was offensive from start to finish.

The first problem begins with the ill-advised title, which seems to imply that blackness is a new trend, something that can be put on and taken off.

That wasn't all. The editorial used a photo of a model named Naomi Chin Wing with a caption that referred to a model named Janaye Furman. To add insult to injury, an issue called "Back to Black" of course features a white model on the cover.

Daily Mail

Naomi Campbell lashed out at that, posting the caption, "This makes me so sad to see this, @bethannhardison @the_real_iman and I are here if you are not clear on the guidelines of diversity," Campbell writes. "Your mistake is highly insulting in every way ... I've said countless times we are not a TREND. We are here to STAY." She continues, "I too in my career have seen pictures of others models called me just because of the color of our skin, and recently seen many pictures of models of color being called being @adutakech... do you know what it feels like to do the job (@naomichinwing) and not even be given the right name credit?"

Adut Akech, a model who recently faced a similar issue—a photo of a different model was used in an interview with her—also commented, "SO SICKENING!! I'm over it honestly."

For her part, Janaye Furman posted herself sipping tea with the caption #blackisback.

The magazine's actions were first called out by the account Diet Prada on Instagram, which reports fashion industry missteps.

ELLE Germany responded with an Instagram post of their own. "This obviously was not our intention and we regret not being more sensitive to the possible misinterpretations. Misidentifying the model Naomi Chin Wing as Janaye Furman is a further error for which we apologize. We are aware of how problematic this is. This has definitely been a learning experience for us and, again, we deeply regret any harm or hurt we have unwittingly caused," it read.

Though this campaign is particularly riddled with missteps, this is far from an isolated incident. The fact that fashion magazines seem to have such poor sensitivity towards race reveals a chronic lack of diversity in higher-up editorial positions, and a lack of care and sensitivity in general. We can call-out publications for their mistakes all we want, but what we really should be calling for is an increase in diversity in all spheres of the media industry.

As one commenter wrote on ELLE Germany's Instagram post, "Perhaps if you had people of colour on your team (whose opinion you value), it may perhaps be an opportunity to make better executive decisions?"

Surface-level representation means nothing if it doesn't use input from the actual group that's being represented, and too often, diversity is used as a performance, something used to sell products. This is a problem that extends to the whole magazine and media industry. A 2018 study from The Guardian reveals that of the 214 bestselling magazine covers published in the UK last year, only 14 of them featured people of color on the front. The issue extends to children's magazines, meaning that so many kids still aren't seeing themselves represented in positions of power. While magazines like Vogue and Vanity Fair have made efforts to prioritize diversity, it isn't enough.

MUSIC

SACRE Releases "00:00AM HADES'S BLESSING"

A journey for your mind and ears.

Sacre

Press Photo

Meet Parisian phantasmagoric dance-pop duo SACRE, Hawaii and Sukil, who released "00:00AM HADES'S BLESSING" today.

The song is about an android gas attendant, Android 6419, who experiences love and becomes sentient. He and his paramour, Bebe, want to get married. So Sukil takes them to Hades, an underground priest who lives with a pig.

"00:00AM HADES'S BLESSING is from SACRE's forthcoming debut LP, Love Revolution, featuring 12-tracks. Each track relates the story of one of 12 characters over the course of 12 hours. SACRE emerged last year with their debut EP, The Call, followed by remixes from Gigamesh and Elephanz. Then they dropped their single "Lemonade," which hit the number two spot on Hype Machine.



Hawaii and Sukil are full circle creators, writing, singing, producing, and designing all aspects of their projects.

"00:00AM HADES'S BLESSING" opens on soft radiant creamy tones, followed by dual mellow vocal layers, one low and hushed, the other gleaming with dulcet flavors. When the two tones merge, the harmonic blend takes on sweet glowing resonance. The flow of the music provides an intoxicating sonic vista, subtle, elusively beautiful, and alluring.

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