Five Ways 2021 Wasn’t the Worst and Even Surprised Us
This year has been a tough one, but also a year to celebrate. So, we’re doing just that with a list of highlights from 2021.
Despite it all, we managed to come together for live music, new experiences, and good times, but we couldn’t have done it without you. So, we just want to say “thanks,” and wish you a safe and healthy end to 2021. And now, let’s celebrate what we were able to achieve this year.
FOR THE LONG CENTER, 2021 WAS…
The Year of Live
The new year dawned and the collective question on our minds was …okay, so how do we get back out there? Over the next few months, we realized the answer was a combination of dependable partners, definitive Austin vibes, and more seating pods.
Then came another round of Long Live Music, the love child of Long Center and Luck Reunion. Not only could we not have asked for better partners, but the community-building mix of national & local artists and safe, communal experience was also a breath of fresh air. It told us that yes, “live” is possible again. We can bring music back safely.
After that came more terrific partners in the name of “live,” including the three-day Keep Live Music Alive festival with Black Fret (sporting a star-studded, Austin-centric lineup we won’t forget quickly), the explorative ‘lookOUT’ series with outer/most agency, and a new pal for us in ACL Radio. Ushering in a fresh wave of free community events for the Long Center, and turning our H-E-B Terrace into a go-to spot for the entire summer, partnering with ACL Radio on The Drop-In was our cautious-yet-lively anthem of the season.
The Year of Local
The Drop-In also heralded a fresh perspective of our own backyard — Austin isn’t the Live Music Capital of the World for nothin’, and we knew exactly what to do with that. This free, 16-show series allowed us to see our neighbors again, and even meet new ones. To hang out as regulars at our local joint while tip-toeing back out into the world. Discovering new local artists and showing up when they needed it most.
Our goal of providing a reliable stage for Austin’s artists and local production folks really took shape this year, leading us to Good Vibes Only. This groovy experiment in staging, sound, and concept turned our black box theatre into a sound stage, and gave Austin artists an opportunity to stream new music — often written during pandemic times — and reach an audience at home while still sounding and looking rad. Check out these free episodes for yourself.
Supported by the Long Center’s Artist Fund (you can still contribute, by the way), we’re making these two new series the backbone of our commitment to Austin’s culture and its incredible spectrum of diversity. We know we have work to do here, and we made it a point for our lineups to reflect this.
Look for more form these programs in 2022. 😉
The Year of ‘We Can Help with That’
A renewed focus on what it meant to be “local” also meant supporting our fellow organizations in bigger and better ways. Looking at our wide-open spaces, we reached out to share them. A …yeah, we can definitely help with that mentality kept us busy and grew our relationships with those around us.
We got to know the team at Six Square through exchanging playlists, and saw Big Freedia return to the Long Center for their Beyond the Square Festival. There was also a movie premiere with Austin Asian American Film Festival, a fundraiser for the Musician Treatment Foundation to provide critical healthcare for musical artists, a drive to help feed live entertainment and events industry crews with Musically Fed, and a temporary home base for Austin Mutual Aid.
Our staff also rallied to make sure that five million dollars in critical funds were delivered to Austin’s live music venues quickly and efficiently through the City’s SAVES initiative, with more to come in 2022.
But what we’re really proud of are the connections we’ve made this year that came from listening, helping, and reaching out while asking, “Hi, how are you?”
The Year of ‘Getting Back to It’
It might sound cheesy, but Santa Claus returning to the H-E-B Terrace for the first time in over two years (can you believe it??) felt as though the holidays had come early. It’s been surreal for us, as a creative group of arts and experience lovers thrown into a world without live events, to get to return to a Long Center tradition and reunite as a group doing something as simple as taking a picture with ‘ole Sant Nick.
This feeling of getting-back-to-it-ness has been all-encompassing. In the last few months, we’ve hosted two sold-out performances in Dell Hall with Hasan Minhaj — pinch us, because we still feel like we’re dreaming — and we’ve watched our friends at the Ballet, Symphony, and Opera return to full-house performances with safety measures in place. We’re even excitedly planning for our Heller Awards for Young Artists to return to the stage in 2022. 🤞
The Year of ‘What’s Next?’
Our Long Center world is beginning to come back into focus, but we know that challenges still lie ahead. Through it all, we’ve relied on our curiosity and our team’s abilities to think fresh and push outside the box. What would happen if we combine these two artists? We can make digital theatre, right? Is Austin ready for a variety show? …are all real questions we’ve asked ourselves throughout the course of the year. Some things worked and some things didn’t, but we kept coming back to the basic question, “what’s next, and how do we get there?”
We’re not at all sure what’s next, but you can bet it’ll involve experimentation, new friends, and more Austin vibes. What we do know is that we’re full of surprises. So don’t write us off yet — we’ve got a full upcoming 2022 calendar, some really bright ideas, and one excellent Austin community. See you soon!