Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

File: Live Music is alive at the Drive-In

| July 3, 2020

One of the unfortunate casualties of the coronavirus is the loss of live music. While music from the stage is only in a self-induced coma, Chicagoland has essentially been music free from stages since the lockdown went into effect on March 19. As we’ve waded through our first three phases of Governor Pritzker’s quarantine in March, April, and May, it wasn’t unusual to wonder if we would ever see a live band again in 2020.

Enter a relic from a bygone era – The drive-in movie theater. In the age of venues that cater to luxury dining and Dolby Atmos surround sound and at-home VOD streaming, drive-in theaters have gone the way of Blockbuster video. But with social distancing the order of the day in a global pandemic, seeing a show in your car with social distancing around your parking spot at a drive-in show has a new and timely appeal.

One of the local pioneers of the COVID-19-era drive-in concept – starting with movies (instead of music) – is Louie Medicino, owner of Chicago’s Cobra Lounge.  Medicino and other live music vets have looked to other avenues to bring folks together with entertainment that provides safe social distancing. “Chicago Drive-In Theaters” launched pop-up movie showings in Bridgeview at Seat Geek Stadium and the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates. “This is a project founded by members of Chicago’s career festival and large scale event producers and organizers. We take tremendous pride in bringing Chicagoland’s foremost events to life in all avenues of cultural experience. As long as an avenue for entertainment exists, we aim to deliver that opportunity to the people that love coming to our events as much as we love creating them.”

Chicago’s Local H was the first area band to bring a large scale concert to the masses at a drive-in, but they had to travel 200 miles south to Gibson City, IL to the Harvest Moon to pull it off. Last month, the duo sold out two shows in Ford county, and the results were encouraging. Fortunately, the band has a following that was willing to take a road trip and a founder that “got” the concept of a rocking drive-in show. Frontman Scott Lucas told Selena Fragassi from the Sun-Times, “I love drive-ins. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do — even before the pandemic – was to play a show at a drive-in, so this is kind of a dream come true for me.” IE’s Isabella Spinelli, who attended the Harvest Moon show, said the enthusiasm from fans was palpable even as the confines of their cars constrained them. “Lucas and Ryan Harding played to a field of parked cars with audience members sitting in lawn chairs as well as in their cars. And they seemed dedicated to making the concert experience not only as exciting as possible but also as safe as possible.  In fact, at one point, Lucas asked security to push back fans who had congregated too close to the stage.”

As Illinois eagerly enters Phase 4 of reopening, long-time Cubby Bear talent buyer and concert event coordinator Duff Entertainment is taking Chicago’s top tribute bands to baseball’s Boomer Stadium in Schaumburg for a series of “Carpool Concerts.”  Like most event coordinators, it took some time to find the right location. “Schaumburg is more accessible, food, beverage, and alcohol can be sold at the concerts, and we were able to get the approval we needed for people to get out of their cars and enjoy the concert outside next to their cars, Duff Entertainment’s Sonia Binder told IE. ” Starting on July 9th, 80s tribute stalwarts 16 Candles will launch the weekend series with two shows at 6 PM and 9 PM. Shows slated through July 12th feature Boy Band Review, American English, Rod Tuffcurls and the Bench Press, Trippin’ Billies, and Southern Accents. General admission starts at $30 for cars with two guests, $45 for three, and $50 for four. VIP parking with food service is available at premium pricing. In the brave new world of drive-in concerts, the early adopters are paving the way for live music this summer. Duff Entertainment’s Suzie LeClair said “like everything in these times, things are moving and changing quickly.  We learn as we go. We bring our lessons with us. We look forward to being the pioneers into live music with their [Schaumburg Boomers] support and hospitality.” And LeClair expects more live shows through summer and potentially into the Fall. All tickets for Carpool Concerts are being sold by advance-purchase only. Visit ( for more information.

-David Gedge

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Category: Columns, File, Monthly

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