New England Concert Venue Converts to Drive-In: Will Others?
Tupelo Music Hall, an independent live music club located in Derry, N.H., has announced plans to reopen later this month as a drive-in venue.
“I’m not going to pretend that I have figured out all of the details,” admitted owner Scott Hayward in an email to Tupelo Music Hall patrons, “but I want to share with you what I do know now that the Town of Derry has given me a permit to do this.”
Under Hayward’s plan, people will buy advance tickets to each concert, one ticket per car. Fans will then arrive before showtime and display their email confirmation to venue staff before being guided to their parking spot. Every other space will be used, assuring that the cars keep a safe distance from one another. The band will perform on a riser in front of the Tupelo Music Hall’s front entrance, easily viewable from the parking spaces. Concertgoers have the choice of sitting outside beside their car during the concert, or listening inside their vehicle via the Derry FM radio station.
“You don’t leave the spot. There’s no walking around. Your spot is your home. Stay home,” Hayward declared. Patrons would also be able to order and pay for food via phone, which would then be delivered by staff members wearing masks and gloves. “Clean as a Covid-free whistle.”
Hayward said the first drive-in performance would be “a cool little acoustic set” on May 16. While he didn’t reveal the performer, he did note “the band won’t be Aerosmith.” The venue owner estimates that they “will be able to accommodate about 75 cars per show,” with the potential for multiple concerts a day.
As traditional concert venues struggle to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, owners and promoters continue searching for any potential sources of income. Recent drive-in concerts have been well-received in Europe, however they’re unrealistic options for most U.S. music clubs. Transitioning to a drive-in model requires ample outdoor space, such as a large parking lot or park. These types of areas aren’t available around the vast majority of the country’s best-known venues, which are located within the urban congestion of major cities.
In that sense, Tupelo Music Hall is the rare location that can accommodate such a transition. Not only does the venue have its own parking lot, but it's located in the largely suburban town of Derry, which is not nearly as densely populated as major metropolises.
Despite lingering questions as to how successful drive-in concerts can be, Hayward is hopeful his events can bring entertainment back to his local community. “We need music and movies,” the owner explained, “but we also need to be smart and safe.”