For the last part of 2020 and the early part of 2021, any Chattanooga-area event or festival involving live music had a line through it indicating it had been canceled. Then we started seeing some of our favorite things show up on calendars, but most were written in pencil rather than indelible ink.
Then Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, which had been rescheduled for September, announced its lineup in late March, and suddenly things felt real for a lot of us. Social media sites blew up with people all over the country talking about how excited they were to gather again and listen to live music.
Bonnaroo's news release contained little to none of the verbiage we've become accustomed to over the past 14 months — "guidelines," "mask," "social distancing," "reduced capacity" — and all indications are that they are close to selling all of the 80,000 tickets that are typically made available each year.
Within days of that announcement, several local festivals also released information about dates, lineups and locations.
Eight bands are scheduled to perform at Valley Fest in Dunlap May 1-2, in addition to the car show, kids activities and other fare the annual hometown festival typically features.
A new event called Forward Festival is set for May 28-30 at Cherokee Farms in LaFayette, Georgia, and folks, if you have ever had any interest in knowing what a music and camping event can be like, this is the place. It's close to home, and it's an ideal setting for both. Almost 40 bands, most of which would fall into the jam band or Americana/singer-songwriter genre, will perform in addition to other activities such as merchants and vendors.
Later in August, Camp Jordan will play host to the Get Off the Grid Fest featuring live music, food, workshops and panel discussions designed to educate and stimulate people to be more environmentally aware and conscientious.
The Nightfall concert series gets underway June 4, assuming things stay on course, and will run a couple of weeks longer than usual into September. The lineup will feature all local acts this year. Also, Friends of the Festival is planning to have shows every Saturday night at the 21st Century Riverfront starting in June through the end of summer, and the group is planning a three-day Riverbend Festival in October.
The Moon River Festival at Coolidge Park is still on the calendar for the middle of Sept. 12-13 and the 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival is set for Oct. 1-2.
Let's be clear: All of the concerns related to COVID-19 are still very much in play, and will be for a long time, but the messages being sent by the music world have been a cause of hope for many.
I do not believe we are out of the woods, and neither do the producers of these events with whom I spoke, but many signs point to people getting vaccinated and taking other people's safety into consideration in large part because people want to get back to being able to attend a music show.