With concerts being canceled or postponed at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater and local indoor music venues potentially going dark this summer, it appears Long Island is going to need an entertainment alternative in the age of COVID-19. Although official governmental guidelines have not yet been announced for outdoor events, ideas are brewing.
“A summer without live entertainment on Long Island is just obscene. There has to be something to do,” says local promoter Brian Rosenberg. “We used to have drive-in movies years ago. Why not do drive-in concerts?”
The Long Island Community Hospital Amphitheater at Bald Hill in Farmingville has partnered with Rosenberg to put together a concept as an alternative plan for the summer season.
“The virtual events are a good temporary entertainment fix, but when the world opens again, I think people will want to go out,” says John Caracciolo, president/CEO of Long Island Events, which manages the venue. “The drive-in concept is doable. I think it’s something we can pull off when we have permission to do so.”
HOW IT MIGHT WORK
The shows would be held in Bald Hill’s 1,500-car parking lot, where 400 cars could spread six feet apart in front of an elevated mobile stage with giant screens on the sides.
“We would paint the parking lot and like Ticketmaster sells tickets, you’d buy your spot,” says Rosenberg. “The key is you remain in your car unless you are going to use the restroom or purchase food at the concession stand, where you would line up six feet apart. Guidelines would be enforced by security with everyone wearing masks and gloves.”
Concessions would consist of food trucks spread around the parking lot with individual porta-potties and hand-washing stations monitored by bathroom attendants.
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Instead of tickets, entry would be on a pay-per-carload basis with up to four people per vehicle.
“The initial shows would be lower priced,” says Caracciolo. “We have to get people out and comfortable again.”
Rosenberg notes, “We will work within all governmental guidelines and wait to see that COVID-19 curve going down to make sure things are getting better not worse.”
WILL IT WORK?
The shows could feature a variety of musical styles ranging from freestyle to disco to rock to oldies to country. But the question is … will it work?
“With the right promotion this idea could work very well. But people have to understand what they are going to and know what the parameters are,” says Danny Calvagna, lead singer of '70s cover band 45rpm, which is one of those interested in performing. “If it works well the first time out, then it could turn into something people enjoy doing.”
Drummer Joe “Mack Daddy” Albanese of another interested local band, Disco Unlimited, adds: “Thinking out of the box is what we need to do now. It’s a way that people can get out of their houses and go to a place that’s safe to enjoy some live music.”
What will the vibe be like without the packed crowd down in front of the stage?
“The exchange with the audience will be minimal. In fact, I think it will be hard to even see them,” says Calvagna. “But the feedback we are getting is that people are chomping at the bit to get back out again.”
Says Albanese: “Instead of clapping, they could flash their headlights or honk their horns. We will try our best to reach out as far as we can and engage the crowd through the screen.”
Either way, the bands are willing to do what they can to make this happen.
“Live music is what we do all summer on Long Island,” says Albanese. “To not have that this year would be mind-boggling.”