After an attempted comeback coming out of COVID-19 lockdown in 2021 and then a hiatus in 2022, the Basilica Block Party officially has been called off again for 2023. But 2024 is not being ruled out.
This year's hiatus presents a rather sudden dearth of summer music festivals within the Twin Cities, which also saw Rock the Garden and the TC Summer Jam both permanently called off this year after they each returned last summer.
Organizers at the Basilica of St. Mary confirmed Monday the decision to hold off again on their annual two-day, three-stage music festival in downtown Minneapolis, which would have been in its 26th year this summer (not counting the two years off in 2020 and 2022).
"We are still on hiatus for 2023 but will keep you posted on the status of 2024," said Molly Cashman, special events coordinator for the historic church.
Basilica staff offered no explanations for this year's hiatus. All music festivals are facing extra economic challenges this year. Those include a rise in expenses on virtually all ends of concert production, plus a decline in festival sponsorship money, as major companies are still facing a struggling U.S. economy.
The Basilica party already had a rather rough go in 2021. After delaying the event to early September from its usual mid-July weekend to meet declining COVID waves, block party organizers were hit with another double-whammy of sorts.
First, they faced the burden and a bit of backlash by requiring all attendees to show proof of COVID vaccine. Then they lost their biggest headliner on only one day's notice, the Avett Brothers, who had to cancel dates because of COVID cases within their own camp.
The 2021 party still drew around 7,500 fans per night for other headliners including AJR, Spoon and Motion City Soundtrack — about half of the event's normal capacity, but still a decent turnout under the circumstances.
An annual tradition for many Twin Cities music lovers and Basilica of St. Mary congregation members, the Basilica Block Party was started in 1995 as a way of raising money toward a $9.5 million restoration project for the ornate church, which opened in 1914. The rowdy, beer-heavy event also rather unexpectedly served to attract new members to the church.
Over the years, performers have included Brandi Carlile, Weezer, Imagine Dragons, the Black Crowes, heyday-era Hootie & the Blowfish and Train. Lots and lots of Train.
Booking duties for the event changed hands in 2019 from independent, local promotions company Sue McLean & Associates to industry behemoth Live Nation. In that first year before COVID hit, Live Nation helped the party draw sizable crowds with artists such as Kacey Musgraves, Jason Mraz and Semisonic.
Should the Basilica party return in 2024, it could see increased competition in subsequent years from a much wider array of outdoor concert options in the Twin Cities. Two new amphitheaters are due to be built in town: one a First Avenue-run venue along the Mississippi River north of downtown Minneapolis and the other a larger amphitheater at Canterbury Park in Shakopee.
Still, there are no music festivals comparable to the Basilica party or Rock the Garden on the horizon in the Twin Cities. By comparison, Des Moines (with Hinterland and the 80/35 fest) and Omaha (with Maha and Outlandia) each now host two successful music festivals apiece. Minneapolis-St. Paul has none.