Words and images by: Jess Laicy
2020 has been such a weird year. We all know that, and it’s just going to be driven home a little bit more by this article.
I did something on the 10th of September that I never thought I would do. Something I would never think about having to do, let alone actually doing. That’s right… on this tenth day of September 2020, I sat in the trunk of my Jeep and watched a full, in person, live concert.
I know, “live music, what the hell is that?!!” Well, I can honestly tell you that it’s something many people have missed dearly since the Covid-19 pandemic hit (the United States) in March. And not just music lovers either, but the musicians, the promoters, the venues, live event coordinators, photographers, and everyone involved in “the scene” too.
Personally I’ve been chomping at the bit to get back out there, so when our chief editor asked if I wanted to cover Prime Social Group’s first ever Drive-In Concert Series at Westland Mall, I answered with some very enthusiastic cuss words. (Ed. – Yes, we can confirm that salty vocabulary was used to convey her excitement.)
It’s been a very long boring five months, what can I say? The thought of a Drive-In show was also intriguing to me, so naturally I was stoked to be involved. The fact that Columbus’s own MoJoFlo were the headliners only added to my stokedness. I love them, but that’s a topic we’ll cover another day… or so a woman can hope.
Anyway, armed with my Jeep and camera, I headed out. The location of the show was the parking lot behind the old Westland Mall on the west side of Columbus. The stage was set up where the Sears Tire Center used to be. Ugh… I’m old, I know.
Speaking of which, do you guys remember when drive-in movies were popular? You would pack up the car, throw blankets, pillows, sleeping bags and whatever else you wanted in there and head off. You were always making sure the cooler was perfectly hidden so the guy selling you your tickets wouldn’t see it, or the snack bag you were smuggling in. No? Well that’s a shame, because a drive-in concert has the same feel to it, and I was all about it.
However, the start of the evening was kind of like a first date; awkward, weird and undeniably evident that this was the first time you’ve done this. But just like that first date, once you get settled in, things tend to go a lot smoother, and they did.
Basically, here’s what goes down. You get in line, you go through security (yes, even in your car), and then they point you in the direction of your 15’ x 20’ space. Just like a normal show, there were VIP and GA sections, and they even set up a front row area, too.
Once you get into your space, you’re allowed to set up chairs, blankets and whatever else, as long as you stay within your concert viewing square. I went the old school route, deciding to pop the trunk and reside there until it was time to photograph The Floorwalkers, who were the opening band.
It wasn’t until I was walking back from the stage, where all of us photogs were fully masked and socially distanced, that I realized the uncanny resemblance to the drive-in movie days. People were sitting in chairs next to their cars. Others had blankets and pillows set up in the back of their SUV’S. Some were sitting on the trunk or hood of their cars, just chillin’ out. When I hopped back into the Jeep, that’s when it really dawned on me that this was kind of a mix between a drive-in movie and a music festival.
It was also the moment I saw something I hadn’t seen in five months… a weird sign of life or at least a little normalcy. People were dancing and singing in these 15’ x 20’ squares. There was a stage with a band on it in front of them and they were enjoying live music. Yes, it was with masks on and socially distanced, but they were still doing it. Prime Social somehow managed to inject a little bit of “the norm” back into 2020, and in that very instant I think everyone that was experiencing it was grateful for that.
Of course, I couldn’t rest on thoughts alone, so in between sets, I asked the humans in the space behind me if I could interview them from six feet away. They obliged, and it turns out I was right.
Reagan and Madison came out to see MojoFlo. Reagan is a long-time fan of the band and she wanted to get out and do something, and this show was the thing she saw. It was also both her and Madison’s first time back with live music since Covid-19 hit, so I asked their thoughts on the whole thing.
“It’s so refreshing,” Madison told me, “It feels nice to be outside and dance regardless of the situation.”
“I think it’s good. It’s a good idea as long as things go smooth and people listen to the rules, I think it’s going to work out,” Reagan said.
Madison added, “It’s new to everybody. We came because we really want to support the band, and the idea and the culture of getting everybody back out there to support live music.”
When I asked the ladies what the best part so far had been, they both answered that dancing was the best part, with Madison going on to say, “being out and dancing, seeing people, it’s just nice and refreshing, I think.”
I piped in with, “A little bit of normal life back, right?”
“Yeah right,” she said, “for real.”
I think, secretly, that’s why I wanted to take this assignment, too. As much as I hate to admit it, Covid-19 has taken a massive toll on me. Like many, I have had a hard time adjusting to our “new normal” and the Drive-In Concert Series at Westland Mall was, in my mind, a way to bring back something I had lost to the virus.
I’ll be the first one to tell you that there’s nothing like live music and the experience it brings. You are there with thousands of other people who love the same band as you. Nobody cares about who you voted for, or what you stand for or what the state of the world is like. All that matters is that you and all these other people get to see that band you love and feel that excitement when the chords to your favorite song start.
I cannot wait for the day we can go back to arenas and shows in masses, but until that day comes, I’m extremely thankful for things like this and people like Zach Ruben (PSG co-founder/president) and his staff at Prime Social Group for being brave enough to put them on.
Even though it’s a sign of the times, and it’s something I never planned on doing, never even thought I would have to do, I feel damn lucky to be shooting any show for the website in 2020, and would gladly shoot, socially distanced, at a drive-in concert over not being able to shoot again at all.
As for the music, The Floorwalkers had me moving and grooving in my trunk, something I did not even notice until the car was slightly swaying. They were that sneaky good!
MojoFlo rocked the lot, of course. They bring such a light and love, mixed with a jazzy funk beat, that I think everyone should see them at least once. Plus, there are not many bands I know of whose lead singer can bust out a hula hoop routine as they cover Electric Feel by MGMT.
What was my favorite part of the night? It had to be hearing all the horns honking in appreciation, in addition to hands clapping. It was a unique experience, and one that I am happy is here.
If you are looking for some awesome live music with a little hint of “life as it used to be,” but aren’t quite ready to venture into one of the local bars and restaurants doing live music, check out the Drive-In Concert Series at Westland Mall for event lineups and ticket information. It runs from now through October.