Drive-In Concerts: A COVID-19 Innovation
The days of piling into a venue the size of a living room, screaming along to songs by your favorite band, and dancing while you’ve got a sweaty man on your left and a woman sloshing beer on your right are nothing more than a distant memory. The humid summer nights seated side-by-side with thousands of people for a concert in an outdoor pavilion is currently prohibited.
When venues were shut down in March of 2020 due to COVID-19, US citizens once held hopeful dreams of returning to concerts in the fall of that year. But, alas. Eventually, artists and concert-goers alike began to accept the new reality. In response, artists have been doing everything they can to innovate and bring live music to their fans in safe ways.
Here are a few artists we’ve found who have done drive-in concerts in 2020.
Country singer Garth Brooks was one of many country artists that took advantage of the opportunity to do drive-in concerts. Brooks created a concert solely made for drive-ins so that it would feel like the real thing. The country artists streamed the concert to over 300 drive-in venues on June 27, 2020. He called it the "World's Largest Drive-In Concert." So basically, tickets were sold per car instead of per person. Without 300 different venues holding about 200-300 cars max, it was an exclusive event, which also fit into the COVID-19 guidelines of avoiding big crowds. Brooks said it was a great way to “still play music and follow the rules.” Some venues allowed people to sit outside their cars in lawn chairs and others had to stay in their cars, but thousands of people were able to experience a unique concert to lift their spirits. Not to mention it gave concert lovers a taste of the old ways.
Watch the short clip taken from a fan to get an idea of what the concert looked like.
An artist who did a drive-in concert more recently was Columbus, Ohio-based metalcore band, Beartooth. Instead of a nationwide broadcast, the band made this event much more exclusive. The concert took place in Oshkosh, Wisconsin at the Menominee Arena on October 9, 2020. Unlike some other drive-in shows, the band performed live in-person. Tickets were sold on a per-car basis, and fans were encouraged to wear masks. The county was in support of the show and helped make it as safe as possible for patrons. One way to do so was to require concert-goers to stay in or around their car. Car hopping wasn’t allowed, and masks were required in the public areas. The band said in a post regarding the show, “Safety is our absolute highest priority, and if all goes well? We'll be able to do more shows like this in the not so distant future.” And based on the photos and the fact that it sold out, it’s safe to say it went really well. Hundreds of cars were parked with enough distance away to be safe and still enjoy the show. You can watch clips from the drive-in concert from this fan’s vlog. If you skip to about 13 minutes, you can see how the show was set up.
Pop electronic duo, The Chainsmokers, was another early drive-in concert announced. However, this is half a drive-in and half a “social distanced” concert. It’s hard to truly say because there are mixed reviews about if this event should have happened at all. The “drive-in” took place in late July in The Hamptons. This was another exclusive event in which ticket packages were sold, some that the average middle-class person would gasp at. Ticket packages began at $850, and some of the most exclusive VIP packages were as much as $25,000 (but it includes an RV, so ya know, worth it).
The reason it faced a lot of criticism was that the videos that surfaced showed the attendees without masks and were not social distancing. While some attendees assured the internet that the show was “totally safe” the videos and photos showed otherwise. While some people stayed in their cars, there was a pit section with hundreds of people were shoved together. It looked like the majority in the pit were not wearing masks nor were they social distancing (of course). You can see a brief clip below.
After facing backlash, it was revealed that the pit was roped off in some spots to keep it to groups of 10. In photos later revealed, it showed some fans wearing masks. So, the jury’s still out on if it was truly safe. The bottom line is that the duo was able to give a unique and exclusive experience to their fans in a time when regular concerts aren’t permitted.
In Anaheim, California, indie-rock singer Andrew McMahon put on a drive-in concert where he played a sold-out show to a sea of cars. To encourage participation in a safe way, he asked people to honk their horns and got up on his piano so everyone could see him from farther away. He called the honking, “honkore” (in lieu of an encore). McMahon described the importance of these drive-in shows by saying, “People are missing being in a space and feeling connected.”
The drive-in concert took place in July to many grateful fans who were missing the original experiences. Each car had an assigned parking space and a designated tailgate zone. If you were outside of that zone, you had to wear a face mask. They also gave temperature tests in the bathroom. Fans were able to even have food, drink, and merch ordered through an app and delivered to their car. McMahon is one of many artists who have tried to bring live music back in a safe way.
You can watch clips from the show here:
Drive-in concerts like this are popping up more and more through the US. Live Nation launched a drive-in concert series with various artists, and a lot of local drive-ins or venues are working to schedule the same sort of things. While these drive-in concerts aren’t the same as what concert-lovers are used to, they are one step closer to the original shows, and for now, that has to be enough.
Written by Kristen Petronio