Drive-in concerts helping to keep live music afloat

Australia is beginning to trial drive-in concerts in a first attempt to give the live entertainment industry some much needed revenue.

When Pixar released its 2006 film ‘Cars’, it depicted a world in which anthropomorphic vehicles attended live events together, formed giant crowds at stadiums, and lived fully fleshed out lives not unlike our own. Back then this was a world of pure fiction, a bizarre and cartoonish existence that could never actually materialise in the real world… right?

Fast forward fourteen years to the pandemic dystopia of 2020 and suddenly that film doesn’t seem so far off reality. Starting next month Australia is trialling out its first drive-in concerts, a series of live gigs that music goers can attend via their own vehicles. They’ll have to stay in their cars for the majority of the show and strict social distancing measures will be in place. Take a look at this picture from singer-songwriter Mads Lang’s Instagram page during his drive-in show in Denmark and tell me it doesn’t look eerily similar to Pixar’s ‘Cars’.

Although images like these are a sobering reminder of how weird this year continues to be, initiatives like this are a necessary step in keeping live music afloat. Festival companies and musicians have seen a catastrophic fall in income since March, given that no big events have been allowed under any circumstance. This huge vacuum in profit has brought the industry to a standstill and creative solutions such as drive-in concerts will be essential if we don’t want to see every festival and gig venue go under.

Australia is planning to slowly re-open throughout July. Drive-in festival company Airwaves will be setting up along the Sunshine Coast for three nights, while Melbourne will be converting Flemington Racecourse into a semi-permanent drive-in venue. Weekly live events including comedy and movie screenings will take place here for the foreseeable future. In short, it looks like rocking up to your local cinema in your Vauxhall to watch the latest release will be standard procedure before long.

Details on the logistics of these types of events are still a little sketchy. Companies are having to scramble together to get things ready and as with everything else currently, social distancing rules and technicalities are changing on a day-to-day basis.

Nobody really knows exactly which things can and cannot be done right now, let alone by July. Can food chains sell products at these events? What’s the maximum number of people allowed? How long can queues for facilities be? All these questions are still up in the air, making planning extremely tricky. We’ve yet to hear about any of these drive-in events in countries such as the UK or the US, but should Australia and Denmark knock it out of the park then you can expect similar events to crop up elsewhere.

Drive-in shows are no real replacement for conventional festivals, especially for live music, but they’ll likely be the go-to for a while. Gigs are almost bottom of the priority list when it comes to re-opening. Not only are they non-essential, they’re also hubs for infection, and governments will be reluctant to allow them to go ahead until it’s absolutely safe to do so.

For now, this is the best the industry can do given the difficult circumstances. And besides, it might be worth going along to one just so you’ve got a cool story to tell your grand kids. Or do it for the gram, either works.

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