Mexico embraces drive-in concerts
Promoters in Mexico are the latest to embrace drive-in concerts, with live shows planned for Mexico City and Toluca, following the adoption of the popular Covid-safe show format in Puerto Rico earlier this month.
Drive-in concerts, or autoconciertos as they are known in Spanish, have brought the live experience back to music-deprived fans across the world in recent months.
Move Concerts premiered the format in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the start of the month, with Pedro Capó performing to 1,500 vehicle-bound fans.
Now, the format has made its way Mexico, with the first drive-in concerts set to take place at the beginning of August.
The Foro Pegaso (10,000-capacity), an open-air arena in Toluca, some 60km west of the Mexican capital, is hosting a series of 2,000-carpacity drive-in shows from 7 August, kicking off with Mexican rock band Moderatto.
Subsequent performances will come from rock band El Tri and Tejano group Intocable, who are also playing the first-ever drive-in concert in El Paso, Texas next month, on 14 and 15 August respectively.
Promoters in Mexico are the latest to embrace drive-in concerts, following the adoption of the popular Covid-safe show format in Puerto Rico earlier this month
The Foro Pegaso shows are promoted by Miami-based company MH Music Live. Tickets are available here, costing Mex$1,500 (€59) per car, with up to four people allowed in each.
The Mexico City Arena is also trialling drive-in concerts next month, with a show by blues-rock band Real de Catorce and rock group Salvador y los Eones on 8 August in its special open-air arena. Tickets will become available here on Thursday (16 July).
The arena has been hosting drive-in film screenings and family theatre events since the beginning of July.
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Entertainment and Media Outlook Mexico 2016-2020 had estimated the Mexican live industry to be worth US$276 million in 2020, before Covid-19 wiped out much of the year’s event calendar.
In the first quarter of 2020, CIE, one of two parent companies of leading Mexican promoter Ocesa Entertainment, reported a 6% fall in revenue compared to the same period of the previous year, due to over 200 coronavirus-related event cancellations.
CIE had been due to sell its 11% stake in Ocesa to Live Nation, but the deal was called off earlier this year, after the promoter was unable to agree revised terms with CIE and fellow Ocesa stakeholder Televisa Group.
Venues open up, but doors remain closed to public
Venues the world over are beginning to experiment with behind-closed-doors gigs, with talent including Laura Marling, Jorge Drexler, Katherine Jenkins, Keith Urban and Pipo Rodríguez among those to perform to empty concert halls.
The coronavirus crisis has seen no end of creative alternatives to traditional live shows, with concerts performed via videocalls, in-game live performances and the rising phenomenon of drive-in concerts.
Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino has said the company is “going to dabble in” some such alternative concert formats, such as fan-less concerts, reduced-capacity shows and drive-in concerts.
Indeed, a handful of venues have already started to bring live events back home, broadcasting performances live from their empty concert halls.
An early pioneer of the fan-less concert format is Uruguayan musician Jorge Drexler, who performed to an empty Teatro Melico Salazar in San José, Costa Rica, on 10 March, after his shows at the venue were cancelled due to the onset of the coronvairus crisis.
A few days later, French ska band Tyro played to a desolate AccorsHotel Arena (20,300-cap.) in Paris, on the very day that prime minster Édouard Philippe outlawed events of more than 100 people in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.
The AccorsHotel Arena is set to stage another, larger-scale fan-less event on 19 June. All Together for Music (Tous ensemble pour la musique) will see dozens of artists perform from the arena in support of venues that have been shuttered and festivals called off due to the current crisis. The show will be broadcast on TV channel France 2.
“It’s still magic, still sounds good, feels rich and feels special. That just shows how special this place is”
In the US, country stars Keith Urban and Kelsea Ballerini performed at the 2,362-capacity Grand Ole Opry in Nashville last week. Ballerini, who said she was “interested” to see what it would be like to perform “without full pews”, comments on the night that: “It’s still magic, still sounds good, feels rich and feels special. That just shows how special this place is.”
Other upcoming fan-less shows in the US include Dropkick Murphys’ performance at an empty Fenway Park (37,731-cap.), the home of baseball team the Boston Red Sox, on 29 May. Bruce Sprinsteen will join the band as a “virtual” special guest.
The show will be livestreamed for free at 6 p.m. (EDT), hosted by Boston tech company Pega.
In the UK, where the government recently announced that live events would likely be able to take place behind closed doors from 1 June, venues are taking the opportunity to return to some sort of business.
The 900-capacity Union Chapel in London is putting on a ticketed livestreamed show by singer Laura Marling on 6 June.
“The announcement also offers a tentative step in helping to aid the flagging live sector, and sets a potentially positive new precedent for other artists suffering from the loss of live earnings,” reads a statement from organisers.
Fans in the UK and Europe can purchase tickets for the show, priced at £12 with the option of making an additional charitable donation, here. A separate livestream is available for fans in the United States for US$12.
“This offers a tentative step in helping to aid the flagging live sector, and sets a potentially positive new precedent for those suffering the loss of live earnings”
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins performed a one-off live show at the 5,272-capacity Royal Albert Hall – the first UK arena to completely shut its doors as a result of the coronavirus outbreak – to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.
The sold-out performance, available to watch back here, also featured a virtual duet with Dame Vera Lynn, who sang to British troops during the Second World War.
Elsewhere, London’s 545-capacity Wigmore Hall last week announced a twenty-show concert series, featuring classical musicians including singers Iestyn Davies and Roderick Williams, as well as pianists Benjamin Grosvenor, Angela Hewitt and Paul Lewis.
All concerts will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and will be available for 30 days after the live show.
“When we shut the hall on 16 March we made sure to leave the piano on the stage, and the camera and audio equipment – all of which can be operated remotely – in place,” says the venue’s artistic director, John Gilhooly, tells the Guardian. “With only one or two performers on stage it’s very possible to make this work within government guidelines observing social distancing.”
Fan-less concerts are also taking off in Mexico, with venues in Mexico City and Guadalajara opening up behind closed doors as part of the Reactivation of entertainment and music in Mexico (REMM) programme.
The scheme, which has been initiated by operators of Mexico City’s Pepsi Center WTC (7,500-cap.) and the Conjunto Santander de Artes Escénicas (1,700-cap.) in Guadalajara, along with local booking agencies and promoters, aims to create over 1,000 jobs in the two cities.
“With only one or two performers on stage it’s very possible to make this work within government guidelines observing social distancing”
Artists billed to play at the venues include cumbia singer Pipo Rodríguez, who will perform along with a 20-piece orchestra, rock group El Haragán y Compañía and Afro-Argentinian reggae musician Fidel Nadal.
The performances will be broadcast live via streaming platforms. Those wishing to watch in Mexico can purchase virtual tickets, priced between 60 (€2.35) and 100 pesos (€3.91) on the Acceso ShoWare website.
All revenue generated by the concerts will be distributed to the musicians and live event professionals involved.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the game for the entertainment world,” Norma Gasca, CEO of REMM co-founder Rock Show Entertainment. “This is a small step forward – once we see the outcome [of these concerts] – to continue proposing different formats until we are able to return to live shows again.”
Rock Show Entertainment is also among companies taking part in the Auto-Conciertos #DesdeTu Auto (Drive-in concerts #FromYourCar) initiative, along with MH Music Live, Switch it, Meximm Mexico Internacional Music Market, Blu2 Entretenimiento, Wild Side Press, Capital Nation and HM Entretenimiento.
The concerts are expected to take place in Mexico City from the end of June.
Read more about the drive-in concert boom here.
‘Deep regret’ over Knotfest Mexico chaos
Live Talent, the promoter of the Mexican edition of Slipknot’s Knotfest, has spoken out after the event descended into “violence” and “vandalism”, sparked by the postponement of performances by Evanescence and Slipknot.
The 50,000-capacity Mexico City edition of Knotfest, Slipknot’s festival brand, took place at the Oceanía Park on Saturday (30 November), with bands including Bullet For My Valentine, Behemoth, Godsmack and Papa Roach. Knotfest has also been held in the US, Japan, Colombia and France, with the inaugural cruise-based version, Slipknot at Sea, taking place next year.
The event was halted around 9 p.m. – before the headline performances of Evanescence and Slipknot – as staff attended to a damaged barricade. According to Live Talent, it was agreed that the two bands would play the following day instead, as part of the promoter’s Force Fest.
However, disturbances broke out in the crowd among fans who were “annoyed by the delay”, with some members of the audience climbing on stage “to destroy and vandalise the instruments of the bands that were still to play”.
“These actions made it impossible to count on the presence of the bands on the Sunday,” explained the promoter in a social media post aiming “to debunk some myths” circulating about the event.
“Live Talent deeply regrets what happened yesterday. Every action was taken to assure the highest level of safety for fans,” writes the promoter. “We want to clarify that, if we took a long time [in fixing the barricade], it was only because we wanted to find a solution to the problem, going above and beyond so that the show could go on.”
“Even though we are devastated by the destruction of our instruments and gear, we do not see the violent end to last night as a representation of our Mexican fans”
The promoter admits that “perhaps our error, and that of the whole security team” lay in not keeping fans up to date with the situation, explaining that “we were instead engaged in talks to ensure that Slipknot and Evanescence performed the following day”.
The bands have also taken to social media to explain what went on, with Slipknot posting on Sunday: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, Slipknot were not able to perform at last night’s Knotfest. We had hoped to be able to perform today, but regrettably, a situation arose onstage after the cancellation that damaged or destroyed gear that would been necessary to play.
“We are extremely disappointed that we did not get the chance to perform, but the safety of our fans and our community is our biggest priority. We will look to get back to Mexico sometime in the future.”
Evanescence responded by saying that, “even though we are devastated by the destruction of our instruments and gear, we do not see the violent end to last night as a representation of our Mexican fans, or the Mexican people.
“50,000 people were there, and sadly a handful of them turned to anger and violence after the cancellation. You have shown us an incredible amount of love from the very beginning, and we will always come back for you.”
Live Talent’s Force Fest went on as planned on Sunday, although without the scheduled appearance of Phil Anselmo. The number of barricades and security staff “were doubled” following the Knotfest incident.