Drive-In concerts become popular alternative to traditional concerts during pandemic

Drive-in concert series at Charlotte Motor Speedway

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Three drive-in concerts are happening in our area this weekend.

Friday night, Quinn XCII and Chelsea Cutler will perform live in front of a drive-in audience at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Saturday night, Chris Janson and Mitchell Tenpenny will perform at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the same fashion. County music star Kane Brown will headline a group of country artists who played a pre-recorded show that will stream Saturday night at Hound’s Drive-In in Kings Mountain and Badin Road Drive-In in Albemarle.

Encore Live is a marketing and entertainment group that hosts private parties, music festivals, and concerts. CEO of Encore Live, Walter Kinzie, says his business was hit hard when the coronavirus pandemic shut down concerts.

“I was walking on the jet bridge at VFW airport, and I got a tweet that South by Southwest was canceled. And I had a 28-band festival at South by Southwest. And that was the first chunk of business. And over the next 4 days, $40 million worth of business went out the window,” Kinzie said.

His team quickly worked to put together a plan. They decided to host drive-in concerts to ensure social distancing and safety during the pandemic. The performances are pre-recorded and played at about 300 drive-in theatres across North America. Garth Brooks performed at the first one in June. Blake Shelton and Metallica followed suit.

“Other than his show in times square in the 90s, he’s {Garth Brooks} never had 350,000 people show up in concert before. So, it was a massive success. And same with Blake Shelton and Metallica,” Kinzie said.

The Kane Brown show will be Encore Live’s fourth drive-in concert this year. Kinzie says they have plans to start producing live-shows at drive-in theatres in the near future.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the big investment it takes to put on major tours, he doesn’t believe traditional concerts will be held for quite a while.

“I don’t think we’ll see 60,000 people in an NFL stadium until 2022 at the earliest. I don’t think any of us are willing to start investing significant capital into these major tours, until we know for a fact it will be safe,” Kinzie said.

Even when traditional concerts return, Kinzie says some elements of drive-in concerts may stick around.

“Now it’s got us thinking, this isn’t just going to be a band aid, this is something that we’ll offer going forward,” Kinzie said. “You have to remember that 220 of our venues are in rural America, where major tours never happen, so this is their only chance for a big star to quote-unquote come to town.”

Prime Social Group is the entertainment company that promotes the Breakaway Festival. The music festival has made a stop in Charlotte since 2017. Founder of Prime Social Group, Adam Lynn, says this would have been the biggest year for the festival in Charlotte.

“Last year in 2019 was by far the biggest year, we had almost 30,000 people attend. So, we got to the point where we could no longer fit at the music factory - so we opted in 2020 to move it up to the Charlotte Motor Speedway,” Lynn said.

When the coronavirus pandemic canceled concerts, Lynn and organizers at Charlotte Motor Speedway decided to host drive-in concerts, instead.

“The Avett Brothers sold out in 8 minutes, which just goes to show how badly people want to go to events safely,” Lynn said. “The first show went off without a hitch and it spread like wildfire across the music community.”

The Avett Brothers performed in-person for the drive-in audience.

This weekend, Charlotte Motor Speedway will host two more drive-in shows promoted by Prime Social Group.

Friday, Quinn XCII and Chelsea Cutler will perform. Saturday, Chris Janson and Mitchell Tenpenny will perform.

Lynn says the drive-in concerts are a good short-term solution, but they are anxious to get back to traditional showings when it is safe to do so.

“We’re kind of handcuffed right now,” Lynn said. “This is the government’s decision went it’s safe for people to attend in a mass gathering so we intend to host these shows until its safe to throw normal shows.”

For more information on drive-in concerts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, visit speedwayconcerts.com

For ticket information for Encore Live’s show on Saturday, visit: www.ticketmaster.com/encore-kanebrown

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