'Glad to get out of the house': Country star Alan Jackson kicks off 'drive-in' concert tour
CULLMAN, Ala. - Summer 2020: the season to pull up, park your car and… watch a concert?
Country star Alan Jackson discovered the "drive-in" concert bug this weekend and put on one of the first major carside shows in North America since the COVID-19 pandemic caused artists, promoters, and promoters to be practical stopping all tours in the middle - March - a decision that, according to Pollstar magazine, could cost the music industry $ 9 billion this year.
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The Country Music Hall of Famer played the first of two "drive-in" shows in Alabama this weekend for an estimated 2,000 vehicles in rural Cullman, about 140 miles south of Nashville. He is the youngest in a growing list of Nashville entertainers, especially in Christian and country music, who turn to nostalgic drive-in cinemas or open-field stages to experience an experience where music hits the tailgate .
And when the showgoers gave occasional applause from truck beds and car windows, Jackson said he appreciated returning to the stage.
"I love cars," said Jackson, greeting a sea of headlights. "This is perfect for me. The main thing is that we are just happy to come out of the house and have a good time with you down here. "
Alan Jackson will perform in front of 2,000 rural cars in Cullman, AL on Friday, June 12, 2020. The outdoor concert was one of the largest "drive-in" events since the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the driveway
Jackson played what is believed to be the largest of the announced "drive-in" tours, bringing a multi-screen, raised-stage production to York Farms in Cullman, where the annual Rock the South country festival takes place.
Hoping to maintain social distance, lemonade carts delivered drinks and fans could order groceries for delivery to the car via SMS. Visitors looked at Jackson's 75-minute set of garden chairs or on cars, sometimes with lines forming on portable toilets and goods stands.
In addition to the crossover tailgate experience, fans could bring coolers and snacks. They heard Jackson sing from his hit pantheon - "Gone Country", "I would love you again" and "It's Five O 'Clock Somewhere" among them - through PA speakers or in the car on FM radio waves.
Jackson, in a red button-down and his signature white hat, appeared with his full band on Friday night for the first time since February, when Arena 2020 closed its first leg days before the pandemic broke out in the United States.
The production team wanted to make the experience "as real as possible," said Jackson tour manager Nathan Baugh. Spectators danced and waved American flags when Jackson sang "Livin 'On Love" and the well-known country harmonies on "Seven Bridges Road".
"It's ... as close as possible to a festival experience," said Baugh. "Alan only does one show and that's his show with his whole band and his video walls and content."
Tickets start at $ 100 for a two-person car and $ 40 for each additional person. A local nurse, Brenda Bennett, said it had to be "Jackson or Eric Church or something" to get her to do a car concert during the ongoing pandemic.
Music fans gather in their vehicles for an outdoor Alan Jackson concert in Cullman, AL on Friday, June 12, 2020.
"I'm wearing my mask and washing my hands," said Bennett of Cullman. "Should be good."
Others, like Phyllis Maynard from Lebanon, Tennessee, traveled with her family for one night.
"It's a good break from everything we've seen on TV," she said.
Future car concerts?
Jackson has broken the ice (or in this case, the marquee? Screen?) On country stars starting "drive-in" tours, but listeners may not see an avalanche of stars performing country-to-country performances from the coast Coast start fields or next to silver screens outdoors.
Typically, the states and counties where major carside concerts take place - with staged staging and often an FM broadcast - have begun to relax the COVID-19 shutdown restrictions in the past few weeks. This includes Tennessee, where Christian singer Michael W. Smith played a parking spot in Franklin last month and country artist Keith Urban held a secret show for Vanderbilt medical professionals at Stardust Drive-In in Watertown, about 40 miles east of Nashville.
For example, the organizers of Jackson's Concert and Concert In Your Car, a similar series that started in the Globe Life Park parking lot in Arlington, Texas, required state and local approval before launch.
And the organizers continue to struggle with uncertainties about when real live music could be safe again.
Supporting act Cory Farley will appear on Friday, June 12, 2020, in front of Alan Jackson, who is "entering" a rural field in Cullman, Al.
"I don't think anyone thinks this is a model to replace the arena or ... festival experience," said Baugh.
But similar to the pandemic that caused the organizer to turn the summer roadside concerts, this trend may not subside. Awakening Events, a Franklin-based Christian music promotion company, started tours this summer with TobyMac, Newsboys United and Steven Curtis Chapman, both of whom play rural drive-in cinemas across the south.
Jackson also did not rule out expanding his drive-in show, Baugh said.
"Working through state governments is a tedious process," he said, "but Alan would like to do more of it."
And - as the pandemic continues to threaten an shoulder-to-shoulder event indefinitely - this may be one of the few ways that fans who want live music can find it this summer.
As Jackson said on Friday night, "This is a unique situation. Thanks."
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Coronavirus: Country star Alan Jackson starts the drive-in concert tour
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