A few weeks ago, I got tossed around in a sea of people at a tiny, packed bar on San Francisco’s long-awaited reopening night. The main attraction? A live brass band. And while I fought to stay upright in the crowd, it hit me that this was the first time I had been to a concert since the fateful month of March 2020 when the world started to shut down. I can only describe the experience of watching a musician kill it on the tuba as utterly euphoric. In service of that rush of feeling only live music can provide, check out our Weekender guide for concertgoing in 2021, some legendary rock ’n’ roll hotels worth a visit, newly released albums to get you pumped and concert gear you won’t want to party without.
Step one: Start with your state and local mask guidelines but also be sure to check the venue’s rules. When you’re indoors, you can still choose to wear a mask even if you’re vaccinated, but if the venue doesn’t mandate masks, and the state guidelines match, feel free to belt out the lyrics without a face covering. Some venues are limiting attendance to vaccinated people only, like Bruce Springsteen’s Springsteen on Broadway — so if you’ve been hesitant about getting vaxxed, maybe this is the incentive you need!
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If attending a live concert topped your must-do list earlier this year, you were in the minority. A Bankrate survey in March found that only 16% of American adults had purchased tickets for an upcoming live event, such as a concert or a pro or college sporting event, with the vast majority taking a wait-and-see approach. Still, outdoor venues like Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado are experiencing a post-COVID-19 surge, and concert planning by artists is in full swing. Events promoter Live Nation Entertainment, in fact, expects to have a better year in 2022 than it had in 2019.
3. Going Live!
Musicians live to perform in front of a live audience. And while 2022 might be a massive year for stadium shows, 2021 is the year for smaller venues. For these bars and clubs, the responsibility of bringing back live music can feel like a “sacred job,” says Michael Dorf, the founder of City Winery, which has venues in New York City and seven other major U.S. cities. It’s a job many are jazzed to take on after weathering the financial blows of COVID closures, even if it takes extra effort to put on socially distanced shows. For those who prefer a massive mosh pit to a more intimate setting, there’s a number of large arena shows in the works, with artists such as Billie Eilish, Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga launching tours this year.
4. What’s On?
While some major music events have been canceled, there are still loads of eclectic festivals being held this year. In September, head to Tennessee for the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, which will feature the Foo Fighters, Megan Thee Stallion and Lizzo, among others. Later that same month, a ’90s and noughties revival gets underway in Chicago at Riot Fest, where the Pixies, Nine Inch Nails and The Smashing Pumpkins are set to perform. If your tastes run more toward chill jazz, plan a trip to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in October. From electronica to bluegrass, Justin Bieber to Guns N’ Roses, the festival circuit is coming to life, so pick your poison and get ready to rage.
If these walls could talk. Hotel Chelsea was frequented by rock legends Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Patti Smith, and was where Janis Joplin and Leonard Cohen had an affair in 1968. True crime fans, take note: This landmark property on West 23rd Street is where Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious allegedly killed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen in 1978 (he died from an overdose in 1979 before he could be tried). Alas, no one’s checked into the Chelsea since 2011 — it’s been in a “dreary state of endless construction,” according to The New York Times — but the hotel is still home to an eccentric collection of long-term residents. That may soon change: Developers are keen to refashion it into an upscale boutique hotel by the end of the year.
2. The Phoenix, San Francisco
This institution in the Tenderloin neighborhood was founded in 1960, and it spent most of its early days as a seedy dive known as the Caravan Motor Lodge before a renovation in the late ‘80s, when it rose from the ashes as The Phoenix Hotel. The key to its reputation as a must-stay for touring rockers? The hotel offered a free massage to band managers who booked five rooms or more. The promotion worked, and the Phoenix attracted superstars like David Bowie and Kurt Cobain. Today, there are no more free massages, but you can sleep in the room where the members of Pearl Jam once stayed and swim in the pool where Courtney Love was known to skinny dip.
3. Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles
Founded in the 1930s, this hotel quickly became the site for celebrity mischief and hijinks. Legend has it that James Dean jumped through a window to audition for Rebel Without a Cause and that a member of Led Zeppelin rode his motorcycle through the lobby. Bette Davis is said to have nearly burned down the Marmont (reckless cigarette smoking) twice! John Belushi died in one of the bungalows in 1982. More recently, actor Lindsay Lohan was banned from the premises for racking up a gigantic bill, while Hunter Biden was banned for drug use. If you book a stay, chances are good you’ll rub elbows with a few famous mugs.
4. The Edgewater Hotel, Seattle
The only hotel in Seattle that sits directly over the water, on Pier 67, The Edgewater helped put the city on the map as a key rock ’n’ roll destination. It all started in 1964 when the world’s biggest musical act, The Beatles, stayed in the new hotel soon after their U.S. debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. With Beatlemania at its height, fans of the Fab Four even tried to swim across Seattle’s Elliott Bay to get closer to their heroes — who were photographed fishing from the window of their suite. It didn’t take long for other rock ’n’ rollers to flock to The Edgewater, cementing its history as hallowed ground.
Into America is a show about being Black in America. These stories explore what it means to hold truth to power and this country to its promises, and they are told by people who have the most at stake.
On episode 118, “Black Joy in the Summertime,” Trymaine Lee explores the traditions and legacy of Black summer communities. Places like Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, Idlewild in Michigan, Bruce’s Beach in California, and Sag Harbor Hills on Long Island. He looks at how these escapes became a refuge of freedom and joy and talks to a family that has spent more than 100 years in Sag Harbor Hills about where the community stands today.
The Foo Fighters are about to embark on their 26th anniversary tour. They will undoubtedly play their biggest hits, but even more exciting will be the chance to watch them perform songs from their new album. Among this year’s inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the band is known for overdelivering in their live concerts — frontman Dave Grohl once kept performing even after breaking his leg on stage. The band’s latest album is considered their most upbeat yet and is almost danceable compared to their previous rock-heavy fare.
2. J. Cole, ‘The Off-Season’
When Cole’s new album dropped in May, it debuted at No. 1 on Rolling Stone’s Top 200 Albums chart. Now he’s going on tour, starting in Miami. For those of us who’ve been missing his presence on the music scene, the tour should be a joyous reminder of what a powerful lyricist and performer he is. The Off-Season moves away from rap’s rigid rules and shows Cole giving himself permission to loosen up and have some fun.
3. Arlo Parks, 'Collapsed in Sunbeams'
As its name suggests, if an album that makes you feel like you are drenched in light is intriguing, then look no further than this London artist’s latest offering. She’s only 20, but her songs display a polish and maturity far beyond her age, and she’s got a style that’s unusually calm and collected (no wonder Michelle Obama is a fan). Parks is taking the album on a North American tour starting in September. Do yourself a favor and catch her now before she rockets to superstardom.
Hours in the sun lining up for beers, tacos and the porta potty — not to mention the harsh UV rays beating down on you while you watch the musicians — are the reason every festival-goer needs a reliable, stylish hat. And don’t even think about grabbing a tired baseball cap; this year calls for headgear that screams cool sophistication: the classic Panama.
2. Keep Your Shirt On
There’s no better place to wear your favorite band’s T-shirt than at a concert. Sure, a nosy neighbor in the mosh pit may challenge you to name their greatest hits, but you’ll be ready to answer in style. Tees like these also come in handy if you’re looking for a conversation starter with the cutie standing next to you in line.
3. For the Record
Not yet ready to brave a live concert, despite our tremendous recommendations? Not to worry; there’s a great way to bring the music to you, or your backyard, with flair: a retro record player. We like the jaunty red option, but they’ve all got that vintage-slash-hipster vibe while also being thoroughly modern with Bluetooth connectivity.