Live Music Gets CloZee: It’s been 13 months since I last attended a concert of any kind. March 3 2020, at the Echo, I saw avant-garde punk queen Lydia Lunch and I had no idea that it would be the last time I attended a live music event for over a year. I’ve revisited that night many times during lockdown — the quality of Lunch’s set, the packed room, the scent of sweat and booze associated with all club gigs — and mourned. Of course, I understood the necessity. I would never prioritize a lust for live entertainment over saving lives. But the simple fact remains — I’ve missed live music.
By the way, I’m taking the first-person approach with this piece, rare for me, because it feels personal.
Months ago, we started to see drive-in concerts occurring. We wrote about them in August in a cover story about the future of live music. Jordan Harding of Drive-In OC, at the City National Grove of Anaheim, told us then that, “We effectively created a new venue outside of our traditional venue. There were a lot of things we had to think through, including restrooms, food and beverage, merchandise, staging, sound and lights, parking – all of those things we had to really think through from the very beginning, creating a new venue if you will. People are craving live entertainment right now and artists are craving performance opportunities. So, we put our heads together to figure out a way to make it happen.”
After six months of livestream-only concerts, I was tempted. But I still didn’t feel safe. Footage of attendees at other drive-in events in the country (not, I should note, in Anaheim) seemed to suggest that people didn’t always abide by the rules. I wasn’t ready.
However, two weeks have passed since I received my second dose of the Moderna vaccine so, according to the experts, I’m now fully vaccinated. My chances of hospitalization or death are down to nearly zero. My ability to catch and transmit the virus have dropped by 90 percent and, if I wear a mask (which I do when around people) and continue to socially distance, that too drops to nearly nothing. So now, I feel good about attending a drive-in concert where human contact is restricted.
Fair play to the good people at the City National Grove of Anaheim. As I found out this weekend while attending the CloZee concert, they’ve got this shit down. Cars are searched on entry, partly to make sure that drinks and food aren’t being brought in but also to be sure that safety rules aren’t being broken. You can’t have more people in the car than seat belts (five is the norm). When you park, the spaces are ten feet wide, so there’s plenty of space on either side of the vehicle. Sales of concessions and merch, and even the line for the bathroom, are arranged through a phone app. Masks are required when moving away from your vehicle. And there are plenty of attendants making sure all of this is adhered to.
I felt safe throughout, and boy it felt good. Rome in Silver offered a low key opening to the evening, but it really didn’t matter. I was at a concert again, surrounded by (distanced) people who were dancing, laughing and enjoying themselves. And while these drive-in shows have been happening for a while, it felt momentous as people continue to get vaccinated at an impressive rate. This feels like the beginning — like the world has a chance of getting back on track in the near future if people continue to do the right things. Honestly, Rome in Silver came and went, and I soaked it up from my car seat while enjoying the big screen images. He was the first artist I had seen live since Lydia Lunch — all he had to do was turn up to make me smile.
Next up was LSDREAM — a DJ who broke out Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” the Doors’ “Break on Through” and the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” during a set appropriately heavy on the LSD imagery and vibes. It all felt very “early rave,” with his floppy hat and classic trippy videos. The bass boomed, the people danced — it was glorious.
French DJ CloZee headlined, and deservedly so. Her set felt epic, orchestral even, like a booming film score.
“The music industry and venues have been suffering for more than a year now, so we really hope this vaccine will allow us to tour again before the end of the year,” she told us during a recent interview. For now, drive-in shows like this one are a happy substitute for regular events. It might still be a while before we can pack nightclubs with electronic music lovers, sweatily dancing arm-to-arm. But tonight, it felt a step closer. CloZee had people dancing on their cars, twirling neon sticks and grinning ear to ear. And after the year we’ve had, that’s priceless.