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Testing the Waters

Nook Schoenfeld • Editor's NoteOctober 2020 • October 10, 2020

One thing that social media is good for is opinions. Folks all have one, and sometimes it’s a great source to gauge people’s gut reactions on topics. One of my favorites is to ask folks about different scenarios, to try and get answers to questions such as, “Why aren’t we doing more drive-in shows?” or “Why are we allowing 17,000 folks into a stadium to see a football game, but we can’t put that many in for a concert?”

All answers are good answers, though many responses differed, often depending on what section of the country that differs from what’s already happening in another’s region. I think everyone had some valid points. I took things a little further up the food chain and spoke off the record with some promoters on why they are not booking shows, and others on why they are. Yes, there are live shows going on, but folks will have to look to the South or America’s heartland to find these and who’s promoting them.

‡‡         Thank You for Not Chainsmoking

Late this summer, Live Nation promoted three successful shows in three different shed parking lots, in three strong markets, to see how they would fare. Brad Paisley, Nelly and a local Pink Floyd cover band played in St. Louis over a three night run. In fact, Paisley went on to play in Chicago and then Indianapolis the next couple of nights. By all accounts, I heard he had fun and would be open to performing at more of these. Nelly confirmed likewise.

These shows were a learning curve, and Live Nation lost some money, as expected. But come mid-October, they are trying it again outside of Atlanta, with some new plans and bands prominent in that area. The hope is that, this time, they will make a slight profit. I asked a promoter friend of mine why, after those original weekend shows, did they stop promoting more? His reply was pretty real. “The Chainsmokers played a benefit party and made the front page news everywhere. It set a bad example, and we had to rethink a lot of things and do it right.”

Another friend of mine said he really thinks every band in the world is afraid of being the next name associated with a super-spreader event. I understand the merit of what he states, but I feel he underestimates the South and the religious sector.

Lauren Daigle draws a crowd

‡‡         So Who’s Out There, Then?

Alan Jackson started it, with 46 Entertainment providing gear to do their own drive-in shows with up to 2,000 cars. I see he released a new video, has a hit song and is out playing gigs. My friend Mason Felps has been out lighting those shows. Mid-September, his artist played a real venue, the US Cellular Center, in Cedar Rapids, IA. The next week, Mason found himself in Missouri, then Kansas, working on Lauren Daigle’s “Autumn Nights” tour. Your seat was a parking space.

Speaking of Christian acts, Michael W. Smith recently did a show in Missouri as well, a scaled-down effort with social distancing in place and a fairly safe show, I’m told by a friend in attendance. A week later, the same artist joined Mike Pence and 50,000 worshipers at the Mall in Washington, D.C. for a Prayer March. Over 50 percent of the crowd was mask-free and joined closely to sing together — reminiscent of the rock shows we are not allowed to put on.

Smaller bands are doing better at turning a profit, it seems. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit are gigging one night, with Blackberry Smoke set to headline the next at a drive-in gig in Georgia with reported sales doing well, while keeping costs down. The same production will get used the following week for local faves, the Indigo Girls. Sublime with Rome is playing a couple nights at a local drive-in at Riverside, CA. Aaron Lewis of Staind and Sully Erna of Godsmack are taking to the road together on the “American Drive-In Tour” with Danny Wimmer Presents promoting; dates are set from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1.

Nook Schoenfeld has lots of opinions, and doesn’t keep them to himself. Feel free to share yours as well. You can reach him by email at nook@plsn.com.

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