Jesse Davidson

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been covering the shift to pasteurized, FDA approved concerts during this period of history. 

I refuse to adopt the term “the new normal” as with most Board room creations that attempt to infiltrate our zeitgeist. Obviously, predicting the future is a dubious game. However it’s safe to say, the trend of drive-in concerts is taking flight. 

It is being embraced the way a person with an open wound will embrace a Band-Aid. In the conversation, this is not a cash cow but a farmer trying to feed his family before winter.

Since initially covering this story, a growing number of artists, indie and mainstream, are dabbling in drive-in concerts. Danish songwriter Mads Langer was the first person to perform a drive-in concert during the pandemic. Electronic musician Marc Rebillet followed quickly with the announcement of an eight-city tour occurring at drive-in movie theaters June 9-28. It seems the rest of the world took note and is following suit. 

Alan Jackson just announced two concerts in Alabama June 5 and 6. Keith Urban just performed a drive-in concert for healthcare workers in Nashville. The Eli Young Band is scheduled to perform in Arlington, Texas June 4. DJ D-Nice just performed a concert for first responders in Miami on May 16.

This is just a fraction of automotively accessible entertainment on the horizon for America and around the world. Drive-in concerts are coming to places like New York state, Arizona and West Virginia, as well. 

Denmark, after the success of the first drive-in concert, has 70 various shows in the works according to the BBC. In America, among venues attempting this endeavor, Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, New Hampshire is one of them.

As reported in Rolling Stone, venue owner Scott Hayward built an outdoor stage and turned Tupelo’s parking lot into a space for an audience.

After selling out one show, charging $75 per car, more shows were announced. Instead of a revolution, it’s making lemonade from the rotten fruit they have been handed. 

Hayward was quoted in saying, “The goal wasn’t to match what we were doing; we’re supposed to be doing $300,000 a month in ticket sales. It’s to provide shows to help some artists and play some shows. It’s better than being closed. Our goal right now is to provide entertainment. If we can pay some bills, great. This is one of those situations where 100 pennies makes a dollar. We’re just gathering as many pennies as we can.”

Clearly, many variables will be at play moving forward. Planning a show naturally incurs financial risk in normal circumstances. During the pandemic, even more so. Restrictions from state to state vary dramatically. Events still need to be staffed even with minimal crew. Overhead has not evaporated for the performer, crew or promoter. By all accounts, this is a workaround to temporarily ease the pain currently being lab tested internationally. Still, this is a small bit of light in an unreasonably dark situation for all formerly employed by live entertainment.

For now, California remains dry. If only there was a place in LA county that has an abundance of open land where a temporary stage could be built. Maybe like a Fairgrounds or something similar? Something that could employ people, boost the economy and keep attendees safe. If only we lived in place with business savvy folks who could attempt such an endeavor.

To quote the late comedian George Carlin, “Well, that’s a poetic note and it’s a start. And I can dream can’t I?”

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