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Is This The Return Of Live Music?

Drive-in gigs might seem like an alien concept, but they could help keep the live music industry afloat

Live music is, and always has been, about community. While we all bathe in the catharsis of that sweet emotional release – be it joy, anger, sadness or just general excitement of being alive – it’s rarely a solitary act. Even when going to gigs alone, we make new friends or just revel in the atmosphere of the shared experience. That electric, unseen connection between fans, knowing that for a brief moment, everything is alright with the world.

But, as you’re no doubt aware, this endorphin rush has been replaced with an overall feeling of despair and boredom due to ‘ongoing circumstances’. I haven’t been to a gig in three months and I am craving the womp of the bass, the buzz of the speakers and those delicious overpriced yet watered-down pints. And while gigs as we know them appear to be non-existent for the rest of 2020, a solution is on the horizon.

Last week, Live Nation announced a series of drive-in shows across the UK that you, um, drive in to. Three-hundred-odd cars, parked in their respective spaces/dance areas, while bands play on a stage. And I am here for it.

No, obviously it’s not going to replace the thrill of being hurled into a pit or crowdsurfing around the sound desk, but it is going to augment that communal spirit we love as rock fans. Because, let’s face it, socially-distanced gigs just aren’t going to work for us.

“Rock gigs are all about everybody getting together – the community, the closeness – and not just the closeness of the fans, but the closeness of getting right next to the stage and close to the act,” Download Festival booker Andy Copping told Kerrang! last week. “Social distancing is going to be virtually impossible for rock shows.”

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But we can’t sit here twiddling our thumbs, gorging on every available livestream like starving #content hyenas. We need to feel the music. And no matter how loud you turn your speakers up, you’re still watching some guy with an acoustic guitar in his bedroom. I’d much rather be outdoors, in the sunshine, screaming along to actual live music, in (fairly) close proximity to fellow fans. Festival season might be down the toilet, but with the summer weather we’re having, you bet I’m gonna enjoy it somehow.

And it’s not just about the couple of hundred fans who can make it. These drive-in shows will be essential to kickstarting the live market. Bands don’t make money from album sales, so how do you think your favourite artists are going to survive without these new ways of thinking?

“We’ve gotta do something to energise and get the business going… because at the moment nobody can go to anything, there’s nothing on,” continued Andy.

“The bands themselves are super-frustrated about not being able to play – that’s what they do for a living… most bands make their money being on the road so they wanna get out there.

“I’m hoping we see some kind of light at the end of this hideous tunnel and we get back to live music sooner rather than later.”

At this point in time, it’s safe to assume that we won’t be enjoying live music as we know it until early 2021, and that is too long for an entire industry to remain dormant. In the UK, the Music Venues Trust (which represents hundreds of independent venues) is calling on the government for a £50m investment to keep doors open and secure jobs. Live music is the lifeforce of rock’n’roll and it needs protecting. And we need to make sure our favourite bands can survive this period by supporting new initiatives.

In fact, while we wait this out, the drive-in market could become a circuit in its own right. Turn these car parks into effective venues all summer, booking myriad artists from around the country to play. Uber could even get involved, ferrying gig-goers to their respective spaces and waiting around like dads on prom night. And if bands from abroad can’t come to the UK to play, there could be a simulcast drive-in cinema set up with full PA system, just like watching the big screens at Download when you can’t be bothered pushing forwards.

Sure, it won’t work for everyone (as much as I’d love to see Iron Maiden play in an airport car park with Ed Force One in the background), but bands need to make money and as fans it is up to us to support our favourite bands. Where’s the fun in sitting on your arse watching the same YouTube vids over and over when you could be Newport helicoptering along to Skindred out of your sunroof? Just be careful not to turn the roundabout into a circle-pit on your way home.

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Posted on June 24th 2020, 2:00pm
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