Live concerts in the era of COVID-19

Country singer Granger Smith performs on-screen ahead of headliner Kane Brown at one of four of the Wolseley-based Twilite Drive-In Theatre’s COVID-friendly live-streamed concerts. Photo by Jessica Colby.

The Twilite Drive-In Theatre in Wolseley has just finished a series of four live-streamed concerts — including country stars Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton and Kane Brown, and heavy metal band Metallica — which provided entertainment to people and helped provide a distraction from the trials of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The drive-in was approached in mid-May 2020 by a company called Encore Drive-In Nights regarding potentially showing live-streamed concerts.

“[The company] emailed us and they wanted to know what we thought of doing some live concerts at the drive-in … and when they came out with the first one, which was Garth Brooks, we said, ‘Yeah, we’ll go ahead with it,’ ” said Don Zaba, owner and operator of the Twilite Drive-In Theatre.

Originally opened by Zaba’s parents in the mid-1950s, this is the first time the drive-in has done something like this in its 66 years of operation.

“The response has been really good,” said Zaba. “It’s better than I thought it would be.”

The concerts were advertised on the drive-in’s Facebook page weeks ahead of the screenings. Even though it was cold and rainy the night of the last concert at the venue, the inclement weather did not stop people from coming to see the three opening acts – Granger Smith, Lauren Alaina and Jimmie Allen – and headliner Kane Brown perform.

“I’m a really big Kane Brown fan, so I just said, ‘I need to go,’ ” said one concertgoer.

Concert attendees can choose to filter the sound through their car stereos via a radio station, or – on nights when the weather is nice – they can get the authentic drive-in experience by using one of the few classic drive-in speakers.

When it comes to live music and COVID-19 restrictions, concerts at drive-ins are a safer way for people to get their entertainment fix. This is because there are parking restrictions (with a required minimum distance of two metres between cars) and limited contact with others in the area. Many people like the opportunity to get out and see some of their favourite artists on the big screen.

“I haven’t seen anything like it before so it’s kinda unique in a sense because we can still have concerts and go and have fun … and still go with friends,” said one concertgoer.

“It gets people out,” said another concert attendee.

The price for the Kane Brown concert was $75 for a vehicle containing up to six people. Tickets were available for purchase online through Ticketmaster.

These concerts appear to have been an overall success for the Twilite Drive-In, especially with less films to show due to an inactive film industry. It is unknown whether they plan to continue with these concerts in future seasons.

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