Get cozy! Drive-In Shows are the New Norm

It’s been said that pop culture is cyclical, and every few years another era gets its own turn for a period of nostalgia. A few years ago the 80s ruled supreme with high-waisted pants coming confidently back into vogue and Stranger Things overload anywhere you turned. Now, the 90s have been having a moment (somehow, butterfly clips are back in style). With 2020’s many curveballs and the disruptions and difficulties of coronavirus, one popular piece of nightlife of years past was primed for a return right out of Grease — the drive-in. 

While drive-in movie theaters across the country have been seizing this moment to safely reopen for screenings, entertainers have also begun to spin this activity into something wholly new. Nashville’s own Keith Urban was the first to hop on this idea, and, in historically kind-hearted Keith Urban style, his drive-in show was hosted as a “thank you” to healthcare workers on the frontlines of the crisis. The team at Live Nation were the masterminds behind the event, utilizing the Stardust Drive-In Theater east of Nashville in Watertown, Tennessee. 

Following the success and safety of the event, more figures across the entertainment landscape began to follow suit. Live Nation has now curated a “Live From the Drive-In” series that spans three cities (St. Louis, Nashville, and Indianapolis), essentially allowing participating artists to put on shows in micro-tours. 

Garth Brooks took the idea and ran with it, constructing a massive 300-show series through Ticketmaster that charges a flat fee for each car. While, like many music trends, the idea may have originated in Nashville, musicians across the country and across genres are tapping into their own chance to create a different but memorable experience for fans that miss the camaraderie and excitement of a live show. EDM, folk, Christian, hip-hop and rock acts are working with radio stations, distributors, and ticket management companies to try and pull off their own version of the drive-in.  

While the experience of this kind of concert isn’t quite a replacement for the excitement of summer festivals, the magic of an evening in an intimate venue, or the thrill of stumbling upon a fresh new act in a local show, the drive-in concerts do serve as a reminder of the ingenuity and creativity that members of the entertainment industry are capable of. The challenges that have been associated with the coronavirus pandemic come on the heels of years of existing restlessness within the music industry as major changes to touring and streaming models have disrupted decades of business as usual. The entertainment industry is forever in flux, though, and forever seeking the next great thing — and it’s also always worth remembering that after dark periods of history, some of the greatest art has been made possible. After the Great Depression, Americans were longing for escapism, and the golden age of Hollywood began. After the plague came the Renaissance.

So, while questions persist as to what the music industry will look like even a few months from now, the resurgence of drive-ins as a response to the complications of live events is an indicator that people will continue to create, and will then continue to make art accessible for those willing to continue seeking it out. Until the next time we can all safely gather for a concert, we’ll see you at the drive-in.