Why drive-in concerts should be popping up everywhere

Drive Through Theater
Bruce Fingerhood/Creative Commons

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We all miss the special magnetism and energy of live concerts. Standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow fans, whether leaning against the railing or lounging in the back, all while being blasted by a wall of sound — it’s an experience found nowhere else. But apart from the connection with the people on the floor, there’s also the tight relationship between fans and the artists on stage, a sense of relatability and emotion that makes concerts a truly rare experience. This close sense of camaraderie, at least in physical terms, won’t be easy to replicate anytime soon in light of the pandemic, which has effectively shut down concerts indefinitely. 

But instead of moping for the next year and a half, there’s a bright horizon for avid concertgoers in the form of drive-in concerts. Similar to the concept of drive-in movies, drive-in concerts allow a limited number of cars and fans to socially distance while engaging in live music. They’re merely a temporary solution to the lack of concert woes, but they’re a welcome one. Drive-in concerts may be more underwhelming compared to the exhilaration of traditional concerts, but they’re simply like sitting in the back row of a venue rather than engaging with the musicians and fans right up near the stage.

Drive-in concerts are by no means a replacement for proper live shows in venues. Still, they’re a respite for eager concertgoers and musicians alike who consider concerts one of their only livelihoods, if not their only one.

Most drive-in concerts currently have attendees tune into the show via a simulcasted big screen performance or via their car radios to encourage fans to stay in their cars. The shows will hopefully implement an option closer to venue concerts in which fans are able to roll down their windows or poke their heads out of windows and sunroofs and listen to the music through speakers, but in the interest of public health and safety, it’s likely that most in-person performances will continue to rely on car radios.

Many music stars from a variety of genres are at the forefront of the new drive-in concert wave. Garth Brooks has plans for a simulcast in drive-in theaters across the country, and Dave Matthews Band has a similar setup. 

Many big acts such as these likely won’t tour and may stick to playing one live performance broadcast in drive-in theaters all over the country. But overseas, local artists have erected pop-up concert stages and held in-person concerts limited to a few hundred vehicles parked across fields and lots. Not only is it innovative, but it’s also an effective means to revive the summer in a small, yet impactful way.

It’s clear that the music industry has been hit exceptionally hard by the pandemic. Live concerts are some of the last social gatherings that’ll be permitted once social distancing and shelter-in-place restrictions begin easing up. And while many artists have done virtual shows and streamings of their previous shows, it simply isn’t the same as appreciating the same music through individualized shows and big speakers. 

Drive-in concerts don’t generate huge revenue, but that’s not their intention. Drive-in concerts provide a sense of relief and peace of mind for those in the music industry to do what they love. They’re for the love of music and for reuniting fans with the artists they hold so dear. 

Many artists feed off of the energy of the crowd, which could pose an issue due to the distance between attendees who are not permitted to exit their cars. Still, there are plenty of ways for fans to show their enthusiasm, whether that’s honking, dancing in their cars when possible or maybe even having their cheers heard over the sea of vehicles. Concerts with large screens broadcasting close-up views of performers for those parked far away from the stage can help increase engagement, and hopefully the artist on stage is able to feel the full reach of their influence.

People miss the magic of seeing their favorite artists perform live. The thrill of bonding over music they enjoy with other fans and the artist is a treasured experience. Drive-in concerts provide a sliver of that experience, and it’s more than enough to tide fans over until they can once again attend concerts like they used to. Sure, fans may not get the sweaty, ear-ringing, adrenaline-filled show they’re used to, but they’ll be a part of something unique and revolutionary. One can only hope that drive-in concerts will last long enough to provide more than just a fleeting moment of joy in a bittersweet time for live music.

Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].