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  • Writer's pictureSydney Oberholtzer

A Guide To Drive-In Festivals

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

The Best Thing To Happen During The Pandemic

The Set Up Podcast at Drive In festival with big gigantic and manic focus

For once, live music craving fans could have actually taken a night off from the live streaming hermit life and experience live music the old fashioned way! (Well, with a twist) Collectiv Presents brought the first ever drive in series in the Midwest called At The Drive Inn. Featuring a perfect mix of instruments and electronic sets, At The Drive Inn was located at McHenry Drive In Theatre in Illinois on July 10 & 11.

“Drive In Festivals are pleasantly surprising experiences that give us hope for the future of the music industry. I cannot wait to attend more during the summer."

Pleasantly Surprising Live Music Experience

Collectiv Presents Drive In with Big Gigantic and Manic Focus

When I first heard of Drive In Festivals through my guest on The Set Up Podcast, I have to confess, I was skeptic with the idea of drive in festival experiences. I didn't understand how festival producers could profit unless charging double or triple the price of a traditional festival without the perks of hanging out with friends and the frills. BUT it was everything I have ever wanted and more!

Both original late night shows were so popular that they sold out very quickly. With the lineup of NGHTMRE/ Ghastly on July 10 and Big Gigantic/Manic Focus/Goodsex on July 11, I can definitely see why! Collective Presents added an early show on Saturday July 11th, opening doors at 4:30pm. It was perfect because the show lasted until 8:30pm, and it wasn't nearly as packed as the later show.

McHenry Outdoor Drive In Theatre is a straight shot from Chicago with around an hour drive. The mini road trip gave us enough time to listen to music and get pumped for the show. That feeling alone was worth the drive. I cannot remember the last time I was in a car during this pandemic and the fact that we were doing something remotely normal, it was exactly what we needed.

The arrival process was smooth. Tickets were sold in tiered levels broken out by the rows. If you wanted to be closer to the stage, the tickets were pricier. We purchased the front row and it was 100% worth the price. I normally am in the back to avoid the crowd so this was amazing to experience for once. Every car had their designated spot with a small surrounding area to enforce the social distance from the other cars nearby. It felt like a camping music festival but with the stage in front of you.

At first, it felt a little uncomfortable not being able to mingle with other attendees or roam outside of your spot, but the vibes of the entire show warmed us up. Normally, we blend in a sea of festival fans while we are dancing and now, we all have individual spotlights. To be honest, I cannot imagine the artists' perspective from the stage. If it was strange for us, it must be strange for them to stare at cars while playing an entire set. The fact that artists tend to vibe off the crowds and now we are yards away with a minimal amount of crowd cheering and facial recognition...that has to be something that will take time to get used to.

Reasons why Drive In Festivals are a great experience--

  • Space to dance.

  • Allowed to bring food and beverage. (This may not be the same option for all drive in festivals so check the website before attending one.)

  • Price includes admission and a car pass.

  • Cleanliness. The organizers took patron safety seriously and had a dedicated team riding on a golf cart to enforce masks (unless you were eating or drinking).

I have only one critique, the sound could have been louder. They did not have the typical speakers that festivals have with the expectation that every car will blast the music through their car speakers. And trust me, this is coming from someone who normally thinks the sound is too loud at festivals even with ear plugs in. This minor set back did not ruin the experience at all.

Overall, I recommend them to everyone. Drive In Festivals are the future of music festivals and I am excited to see what else is in store for the music industry!

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