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Mix Blog Live: Meet Me at the Drive-In

The hunger for live music is real, and with very few outlets outside of looking at a screen, artists and fans are turning to a network of drive-in theaters across the country.

You may not be able to have a concert in your car, but it’s starting to look like you’ll be able to put your car in a concert. COVID-19 has all but shut down the touring industry, at a time of year when most acts are out on the road making hay. Shows have been few and far between, but drive-in concerts are growing in popularity, providing what appears to be a safe alternative to cramming tens of thousands of people into a confined space.

Last Saturday, on June 20, tickets went on sale for Garth Brooks’ Drive In Concert, which will air at more than 300 drive-in theaters across North America this Saturday, June 27. Within two hours, 50,000 tickets were sold, but a glitch in the Ticketmaster website forced sales to be stopped. At that time, Ticketmaster estimated that another 120,000 fans were waiting to purchase tickets.

The ticket price is $100 per passenger car or SUV with a maximum of six occupants, making it way more affordable for a family of four to attend a show than the usual ticket scaling permits. Each drive-in location will provide approximately 250 to 300 tickets, aka parking spaces. Following cues from drive-in movies, audio will be broadcast to the radio inside each vehicle.

The Brooks concert is being produced by Encore Live, which has reportedly consulted health experts to establish safe protocol for the event. Vehicles will be spaced six feet apart, staff will wear personal protective equipment, and capacity of public restrooms will be limited. Concession areas at each venue will be required to adhere to local regulations.

Brooks’ Drive In Concert was created and filmed exclusively for this event, and it will reportedly be the largest show ever to play at outdoor theaters across the United States and Canada. Appearing on Good Morning America last week, Brooks said, “We’re excited because this is a reason to get out of the house, but at the same time you get to follow all the COVID rules from every individual state and you get to have fun and stay within the guidelines of social distancing … we’re calling it ‘social distancing partying.'”

Though not quite on such a grand scale as the Garth Brooks concert, Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes will perform a drive-in show at Monmouth Park Racetrack (Oceanport, N.J.) on July 11, which will be New Jersey’s first non-virtual show during the COVID-19 pandemic. The concert will benefit the Count Basie Center for the Arts (Red Bank, N.J.), and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund. Tickets for the event are $150 per vehicle with a maximum of four occupants, and the venue holds 1,000 vehicles distanced nine feet apart. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out the numbers: the potential gross for the Southside concert is $150,000 (nothing to sneeze at), and the show sold out hours after tickets were released for sale.

Read more Mix Blog Live: A Slice and a Coke.

Yesterday, Live Nation announced a nine-show drive-in concert series called “Live From the Drive-In.” The concerts will take place July 10-12 in Nashville, Tenn., Maryland Heights, Mo., and Noblesville, Ind.. Featured artists include Brad Paisley (who will headline shows in all three cities), Darius Rucker, Jon Pardi and Nelly. Patrons for the Live Nation events will be able to park in the lots at the amphitheaters, with two empty parking spaces between each vehicle. Venue staff will be required to wear masks. Live Nation has requested that attendees wear masks upon arrival for touchless ticket scanning through their windows, but they are not required to wear masks or gloves once they reach their designated tailgate areas.

Other drive-in concerts are popping up rapidly, including So Cal Drive In Series at Oak Canyon Park (Silverado, Calif.), and the Tupelo Drive-In Experience at the Tupelo Music Hall (Derry, N.H.).

Whether the drive-in concert trend will continue after the pandemic has passed remains to be seen, but at least for now drive-in shows are providing some much-needed entertainment for music fans and some much-needed work for the concert industry.

And if it rains? Well, just roll up the windows.