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15 August 2020

Concerts in the New Normal

Fourteen of us in the Latitude28 Band family are on board a Delta flight to Oklahoma City as I write this. Tomorrow we will put on the sixth concert of our new series called the Drive-In Concert and Fireworks Extravaganza Tour.

Yes, it’s something different from what we were doing earlier this year.

First-Quarter 2020: Before Covid19

Backtrack eight months to January 2020. Those were pre-coronavirus days for the United States. Latitude28 Band was flying all over, putting on concerts in the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Belize, and at venues in Florida and around the U.S. It was the first quarter of a year booked solidly with gigs.

By late February, most people in the country knew about the virus. We had watched from afar as it had ravaged Wuhan, China, popped up on cruise ships, and then appeared in Italy. The fact that it had made its way out of China was unsettling but not yet super concerning.

March: When Everything Changed

On March 6, we went to Suriname, South America, and between Day One and Day Seven of the trip, it felt like the world was starting to slide off its axis. Every day brought fresh news of hundreds more people dying in Italy and the spread of the virus to other countries. In fact, as the week went on, there were even murmurs of flights to the U.S. from across the Pond being canceled.

For the 16 of us in Suriname, the succession of news reports fueled an increasing interest in getting back home. If flights to the U.S. from Europe might get halted, what about flights from the Caribbean?

That was four months ago.

After our return from Suriname, all our shows got canceled because of the coronavirus. Not just the two or three in March, or the next several in April, but all of them, one at a time, until the calendar for the year was empty.

Staying Active During Lockdown

It took a few months to accept that the coronavirus had indefinitely changed our ability to do traditional style shows in 2020. In the beginning, we put our efforts into launching new Latitude28 online ventures: daily Facebook live-stream shows, a shop with Latitude28 merchandise, and two new verticals–Latitude28 Records and Latitude28 Pictures. It kept us busy and kept the brand out in front of people.

The weeks passed. Lockdowns got lifted and stuff started re-opening across the country. But still, concerts with bunches of people packed into small venues were not going to happen.

New Concert Strategy for the New Normal

The decision-makers of Latitude28 Band came up with an idea: take concerts outdoors and have people attend in their cars. (And stay in or beside the cars.) The idea would require a big stage set-up with LED screens and a sound system capable of reaching an entire field or parking lot. And an additional entertaining component to draw people.

The collaboration of creative and intentional minds produced the complete vision: the “Latitude28 Band Drive-In Concert and Fireworks Extravaganza Tour.”

Which brings us back to today, and this flight to Oklahoma City.

Tomorrow’s show in OKC will be the sixth show of our Drive-In Concert and Fireworks Extravaganza Tour. All our concerts so far have taken place at drive-in theaters and county fairgrounds. This weekend’s show is no exception. Upcoming shows are scheduled in Alabama and Florida, with pending dates in Texas and other states.

McHenry County Fairgrounds concert (Chicago area), August 2020

Lemonade from Lemons

The vision has been executed with great success. Response to our drive-in shows has been grateful and enthusiastic. People abide by the social distancing protocols, staying in family groups close to their vehicles. They love the music, energy, engagement, and top-flight show production (the latter is thanks to Bunt Backline Event Services). And, of course, they love the fireworks.

We could not be happier with how things have turned out!

The coronavirus handed out lemons. We turned them into the proverbial lemonade. The Drive-In Concert and Fireworks Extravaganza Tour started as one person’s brainstorm and evolved into a team production that is allowing Latitude28 Band to keep doing what we love to do: make music, entertain guests, and bring people joy.

We hope we are also inspiring other musicians to do the same thing. This is the new normal for now, so let’s embrace it, find the safe workarounds, and be happy!

The fireworks at our Lakeland, Florida show, July 2020

All photographs by Garrett Casto.

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