A concert is like a car. Most of us have been around one before but we really don’t know anything about what is under the hood. There is A LOT of shit under there and it takes a lot of moving parts to make the thing go. In the last two weeks I have had the unique privilege of watching a band I admire putting the pieces together. It was a real experience to see the thing come together so quickly. Spafford produced a finished product, a LIVE socially distant drive-in concert in Mesa, Arizona, in under two weeks.
The vibe was initially surreal. I arrived for soundcheck a little after 4PM and that desert sun was beating down. I could see in the distance that the cars had started to line up. Die-hard Arizona Spafford fans arriving early for the first shot at a first come first serve based spot situation. The concert was ticketed and each car had either a East or West pass. Depending on your purchased location you were instructed on either side of the stage. Next to the stage was a tremendous video screen, fans were truly at the drive-in. The band brought in a PA system to provide a real concert experience. Each row then had speakers. The trucks and taller vehicles were parked in the further rows to ensure a line of sight for each attendee.
Doors opened at six and cars began driving in. People popped out of their vehicles, taking advantage of the spot allotted around the car. Some fans decorated their space in a true to the scene fashion. There were lights and chairs and masks. The culture behind the concert was still prevalent which was a relief to me. I was worried those things would get lost in this social distance experiment.
Most fans did wear their masks which was also a relief to me. I am a New Yorker in Arizona and I do admit it seems to be the wild west out here when it comes to people now in the open without masks but either out of respect for the band or the gravity of this being essentially the first run of what could be the future of music! People wore their masks, and when they didn’t, they seemed to be in their designated spot with who they had come with.
The energy was palpable. Prior to the start of first set the band was backstage, or really super side stage given the setup for the event. The green room was essentially an RV and the boys thought the roof to be a good perch to look down on the car/concert they had put together! They climbed up on top of the RV and greeted guests as they came in. You could feel the happy energy between the crew and band. I mean really between all the working parts in the entire location. The security guard at the entrance to the artist area said it best, “ I am sure glad to have a reason to be out of the house”. Every single person there wanted music but they also wanted friends and energy and a reason to leave their house. Spafford delivered.
I was skeptical of the drive-in scenario even up until the beginning of that first song. It wasn’t the same as a crowded venue. There was no one crowding me. The shouts were distant and I wasn’t sure if the music would fill up that empty space, but it did. Music is funny like that right? It always does what we need it to do. By the time the band finished their first song it was clear we all had The Remedy. I also felt like the universe provided us with the longest sunset I had ever been a part of. I am half kidding but it lasted almost the whole first set. It was a beautiful backdrop for a concert and an added bonus for all of us who have spent so much time out of nature recently.
My heart filled with happiness seeing all the kids with their parents. Mostly because I recognized the faces with this being a home field concert for Spafford and family. I loved seeing all those little humans find their grooves. The band looked happy on stage and I think that had a lot to do with the added effort that went into this one. It was a big deal. It was A LOT of work and a lot of “Is this going to work? The risk paid off and a lot of people got to see live music last night. Even on their screen at home. I read one comment earlier in the bands fan group on Facebook that read. “I can listen to as much live music as my little heart desires, but knowing this is legitimately live makes my heart sing!”. Us too Brooke! We all need music to live. It’s a matter of fuel.
I think if covid-19 is doing anything for any of us its turning time back a little. Things feel more like they used to be. I was happy to hear that people enjoyed pulling beers from their coolers. I know this sheds light on a deeper issue that venues and their employees will face in the coming months as these things become the new norm but hopefully, they will be able to adapt.
I think for now the outdoor concert experience is the most responsible substitute. It’s not perfect but It’s as close as we can get right now. The public response to this show and the numbers of people who tuned in point to one thing for sure. Music will always find a way.
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