Exactly a year ago everyone rubbed their blurry eyes and hoped to say goodbye to the year most commonly referred to as a dumpster fire. As 2021 began things were looking promising as more and more people got vaccinated and numbers of COVID cases went down.
Live music around town quickly saw the benefits of the drop in cases as a sense of normalcy returned to the clubs, large and small, around town. Personally, I haven’t felt at ease going to indoor shows all year, though I have been to a few. I definitely long for the day when I can do so and hug my friends while soaking in good music without fear that I may bring the virus home.
The few shows I did catch this year were amazing and I always felt grateful to be there. Seeing friendly faces, even if masked, was a real sense of relief and joy. By far the most welcoming environment was the outdoor stage at The Continental Club
where the fresh air and chill vibes always conquered any fears.
Seeing hometown rockers The Flamin’ Hellcats
burn it down out there was a beautiful reminder of our city’s immense and long running talented bands that call Houston home. Spending the day at Luba Dvorak’s
Brooklyn Twang Festival was another great reminder of all the music our city holds and the bridges created to other communities through their talents.
Something that has stood throughout the pandemic is our city’s vibrant creative community and our music venue’s abilities to roll with the punches and adapt to keep the show going.
Whether it’s places like Wonky Power
or Mucky Duck
that constantly found ways to live stream the live performances for those who wish to stay home or The Heights Theater
and Continental Club who adapted their regular set ups to increase safety for their employees and patrons, the spirit of perseverance and respect is strong.
In times when cases were way up, much like now, it feels sad to think that live shows may be paused again but in times like these we can always look back with pride at the amazing albums that Houston artists have put out.
Bands like Cactus Flowers
and Velveteen Echo
nailed it with their moody, melodic and grungy albums. Dende
has continued to pave his path to stardom with two releases this year, including his latest release Pregnancy Pack
Say Girl Say’s Let My Hair Down
and Katie Rushing’s Sparrow
are both albums that I have turned to time and time again for the important and timely reminder to be slow down and be true and kind to oneself and ultimately to one another during this (yet another) challenging year.
Looking at national music coverage, there were three big Houston names that repeatedly grabbed headlines; Megan Thee Stallion, Tobe Nwigne and Khruangbin. All of these acts shine a light on Houston and represent the diversity of our city.
One strange positive side effect of the pandemic is that it has allowed the focus of music coverage and headlining bands around town to be largely local as national acts just aren’t there to be competition.
It was an immense source of pride to see an entire Houston lineup perform for a full weekend at Miller Theatre’s
Summer Mixtape Series, which was really only made possible because of larger performances that were canceled during COVID. Hopefully the success of that weekend will allow the event to continue in future years, pandemic or not, so that Houston can celebrate its thriving and diverse music scene.
Seeing as how we are ending the year with already canceled shows due to the rise of cases and the Omicron variant and a regretful feeling of deja vu, it’s hard to know what to expect for the next year. People seem to be tired of the virus, though as officials repeatedly warn the public, the virus doesn’t get tired of us.
Businesses and artists have to find ways to survive and all we can do is hope for the best and try to make wise choices for ourselves and our families while continuing to support our city’s venues and musicians when we can and back city legislation that provides assistance to those in need.
Whether people decide to go out or not, they can always try to make the better choice and they can always find good local music to support. Because in Houston, we have talent.