Threats & Promises

Tomorrow’s News Today: Local Music Highlights from 2021

2021: The year some of y'all got in good trouble.

Hot dog, y’all. Welcome to 2021, the year you’ve literally been waiting for since at least last March. In the past, I’ve liked to deliver an entire year of news in advance because I know how busy everyone is. These humorous, while entirely false, future remembrances were a gentle way of setting up the year for a good time to be had by all. This time, though, it’s all entirely real, with the only caveat being that you should believe half of what you see and none of what you hear. With that, here’s a look back at 2021.

JANUARY: Reflecting on the previously agreed-on need for multiple gigantic venues in Athens, the mayor and commission successfully petitioned the Georgia Department of Transportation to allow use of the 10 Loop for socially distanced outdoor concerts. The outer loop was reserved for run-of-the-mill cover bands, and the inner loop was set aside for much cooler bands that only perform covers ironically. 

FEBRUARY: Valentine’s Day came and went without the usual pomp of performative romance and ceremony. Even so, nearly 50 members of local metal bands got together via Zoom to remake the 1973 classic “Radar Love,” which was a smash hit for our friends from the Netherlands, Golden Earring. Although subtle, this was a nice hat tip to the Athens tradition of going Dutch. 

MARCH: Every year in this space I talk about Austin and South By Southwest and how everyone did this and did that and whatnot and hoo-ha. This year was all online, no one wore shoes, and everyone blissfully waited hours in digital queues to get into virtual parties where they recognized absolutely no one. This extra-special touch of authenticity really cinched everyone’s commitment to double down in 2022. 

APRIL: This was the “will they or won’t they” month of decision for AthFest. In the end, it was determined that all bands would play on top of the downtown parking deck with audiences staring up. Negotiations stalled, however, after no one could agree if this was “Beatles-style” or “U2-style,” and because absolutely everything on Earth has to go through committee, no one felt comfortable writing a press release.

MAY: The University of Georgia issued its usual number of undergraduate degrees this month. Some of y’all got one, and others didn’t. The drive-by ceremony at the Arch was officiated by Patterson Hood, who returned to town for the honor of tossing each graduate their diploma through their car window. 

JUNE–AUGUST:  What did you expect? It was summer. It was hot, gross, plagued with mosquitos and interrupted constantly by weird people who jog in the middle of the day. Occasionally we saw a dude with a saxophone or banjo or some other accoutrement that screamed “notice me!” but, for the most part, we just kept refilling the water bottle. 

SEPTEMBER: Reflecting on the stratospheric success of the Pylon boxed set, the gang over at New West Records figured there must be something else out there in the Athens archives worth boxing up. As it turns out, there wasn’t! Even so, boxes are nice and useful things, so the venerable label issued a “choose your own adventure”-style container whereby you could throw all your old Athens music into a very sturdy package, shelve it carefully and never take it down again. So, win-win!

OCTOBER: The newsworthy event this month was, of course, the Wild Rumpus parade and associated wackadoodle events that always seem to accompany it. Because downtown had been turned into a singular outdoor food court and beer garden, thus preventing any sort of mass costumed uprising, this year’s rumpus was held in the Georgia Square Mall parking lot, because that’s where carnivals and such happen in Athens. Plus, there’s a Mandarin Express, which was a nice touch for our local food court purists.

NOVEMBER: This month we said thank you. For what? Oh, for multiple Bandcamp Fridays, surprise mixtapes and remixes, parking lot shows, modern vaccines and a tenuous return to relative normalcy. In the interest of full disclosure, however, I’ve got to tell you that the tape for this month is awfully fuzzy, and I’m just giving you my best guess as to what happened. It was so long ago, ya know. 

DECEMBER: As 2021 drew to a close, Athens celebrated an Old Fashioned Christmas (sorry, “old fashioned festival of lights” or whatever sounded good this year). To this end, parking meters accepted pennies, UGA accepted a student without killer high school grades, nightclub shows featured a mere two bands, and you could walk blindfolded across Prince Avenue at Childs Street during the middle of the day and count the cars on one hand. The lights were out by 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, and everyone prepared to begin 2022 with a great outlook and big plans. It was, indeed, awesome. See ya next year!