Ten Moments from 2021 that Mattered to the Local Music Scene
As the year comes to a close, it’s worthwhile to reflect back on what transpired and what is likely to have a lasting effect on our local music scene. This is not a traditional “Best Of” list, nor is it (necessarily) intended to be a list of great musical moments. Instead, I’ve tried to call out those developments that may have the biggest impact on the Nippertown music scene going forward. In spite of it being another Covid-wracked year, there is a lot to be optimistic about.
February 9: Plush, a new band featuring Moriah Formica on vocals, release their first single “Hate”. The band immediately got national traction and would tour with Halestorm and Evanescence, dropping their self-titled debut album in the fall. They clearly seem to be going places – the only question is whether Formica and crew will maintain any kind of connection to the Capital District going forward, or if they will instead ride off into the sunset.
April 17: Lark Hall opens (in earnest) with Victory Soul Orchestra. Over the years, Center Square had somewhat lost its lustre as a live music destination, in favor of other parts of the city. When the historic and absolutely gorgeous Lark Hall opened its doors on this spring night, all that changed. Lark Street has its musical center of gravity again.
April 28: Bad Mothers signs with Shooter Jennings’ label Black Country Rock. This was no accident. The hard rocking foursome had clearly established their credentials around the local music scene over the previous few years, including a top four finish in Nippertown’s own “2021 March Music Madness” contest. By December, they had released three singles and their first (self-titled) full-length album. A real-deal band with a ton of potential.
June 18: Jocelyn and Chris release their single “Sugar and Spice”. While the siblings have been at it for years, 2021 seemed to be the year everything really kicked in for them. After the momentum of winning big at the 2020 Eddies Awards, they released this single and promptly embarked on a national tour for the rest of 2021. They have charted four consecutive singles in the Billboard AAA Top 40, taken two records to #1 on the Relix Jambands Top 30 Album Chart, and appeared nationally on NBC’s Today Show. One has to believe even bigger things are in store for them.
July 12: Super Dark Collective returns, proceeds to take over the world. Okay, not really. Not yet at least. But shortly after reviving their traditional Monday run at Desperate Annies (single handedly responsible for making Mondays one of the best music nights of the week), they also began hosting shows at Rare Form in Troy. By the end of the year, they had added Nippertown’s newest venue (No Fun) to the mix. (Note to Super Dark: Schenectady sure would be a great place for your next venture.)
August 25: Empire Live opens in downtown Albany. At long last, Empire Live opened the doors to its new home on North Pearl Street after closing down its old Clifton Park location (Upstate Concert Hall) last year. The decision to move created a brief debate in online forums when it was announced, but it just feels so much more natural seeing those crowds downtown as opposed to a suburban strip mall. Jocelyn and Chris provided the soft opening for the big room, followed the next night by Cold War Kids (the first show open to the public). In November, Ryan Montbleau opened the smaller room (Empire Underground). So far, the bookings have been excellent and diverse, with a show (or two) happening most nights of the week. It’s safe to say Empire Live has already established itself as a live music anchor for Albany.
September 1: Caffe Lena’s continued growth into much more than just a folk venue. I chose this date because this is when they launched CaffeLena.tv, a service that provides live streams of their shows, plus a vault of past performances to enjoy in the comfort of your own home. Which is really a game changer if you think about it. But the evolution of Caffe Lena really happened all year long. They now offer a variety of music lessons, taught by noted artists from the area and beyond. They partnered with SPAC to launch their “Caffe Lena at SPAC” series. They host poets, storytellers, community activists, and the Rochmon Record Club. Caffe Lena has morphed into a cultural center – for Saratoga, for the Capital District, and beyond. It’s truly a national treasure, now more than ever.
October 29: William “Tragedy” Yager reopens The Fuze Box, resurrecting the ghost of the QE2. If you were on the local music scene from the mid-80’s through the 90’s, the QE2 was sacrosanct. A punk club, yes, but so much more. While it was open, Albany was on the map for any up and coming band making the Northeast circuit. But more than this, it was center to every bit of counter culture this scene could muster. From poetry to punk, from house music to hardcore…whoever or whatever you were, this was home. There has never really been a true replacement. Enter William “Tragedy” Yager, who literally grew up on the streets outside the famed club, and who was a fixture there. One of very few people who could attempt to bring this institution back with any integrity. His vision is for this to (again) become a counterculture community center for Albany. Will he succeed? Perhaps the most interesting question in Nippertown this year.
November 24: The Last Waltz on Lark Street. A new Thanksgiving tradition? What a great idea. A bunch of local musicians getting together to recreate the music of The Last Waltz, right before Thanksgiving. Please, please – let this catch on. It can be different (artists, etc.) every year, while still holding to the basic idea. This was terrific fun, and needs to become a Nippertown tradition.
December 11: The Capital District’s newest venue, No Fun, opens. Pint Sized, with a little help from Super Dark Collective, establishes the newest destination for live music in Troy.
Gone but not forgotten: By no means intended to be comprehensive, but we will miss: