'Drive-in' concerts debut this weekend

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SWANZEY, N.H. — There will be no fearing the reaper at a drive-in concert at the Cheshire Fairgrounds in Swanzey next weekend.

"We wanted to find a way to bring back live music with national level artists to New Hampshire but we also needed to make sure we were providing a safe environment for all attendees, staff and artists," said co-organizer Mike Chadinha. Working with the town, he said, they've been able to develop a way for folks to get out and enjoy some entertainment.

Throughout the summer, Drive-In Live will present "a full concert experience with festival sound, lights, video, and of course safe protocols in the age of social distancing," states the news release announcing the summer series.

Drive-In Live is kicking off this weekend with Echoes of Floyd: A Pink Floyd Experience at 8 p.m. On July 18, classic rock icons Blue Oyster Cult - known for such hits as "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," "Godzilla," and "Burning for You" - will perform. The concert was originally scheduled for July 11, but was rescheduled due to forecasts of inclement weather.

"We've worked with Blue Oyster Cult a dozen times over the years presenting them at various venues, and they were cool enough to be one of the first ones to partner with us on this venture, and we are thrilled," said series director Seth McNally, whose M.E. Productions has presented concerts for more than a decade in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

McNally said European production companies have switched to a drive-in model to present music in a safe way in the era of social distancing.

"We had our eye on those events for awhile, as Europe was further along than the U.S. with the pandemic shutdown," he said. "When we saw they were both safe and successful, we decided to try and reboot live music in the Monadnock region in the same way.

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McNally said to keep everyone safe, they are following the "Stay at Home 2.0 Reopening Guidance for Drive-In Movie Theatres" as well as recommendations from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tickets for each event range between $60 and $159 for each vehicle, up to five people per vehicle. Cars will have 10 feet of space between them, and will be parked in a staggered fashion for un-obstructed sight lines. Attendees will be able to bring lawn chairs and sit in the empty spot to the left of their vehicles.

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McNally said to avoid any potential gathering spots that might violate social distancing protocols, they will not be offering any concessions. However, he said, people are allowed to bring their own food and beverages.

"People need music now more than ever," said McNally. "These are challenging times, and we're excited that we can provide a safe way for folks to take a break from their hectic lives and experience live music again, and perhaps laughter with a comedian or two."

Other shows include The Ghost of Paul Revere on July 17, Almost Queen on July 24 and Pink Talking Fish on July 31. Recycled Percussion will present two shows on Aug. 1 at 3 and 8 p.m.

McNally said more shows will be announced each week. He said it's a challenging time to be a concert promoter or to be in a band, but he said the drive-in concept should be able to get folks through to 2021.

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"I think we all would like things to return to normal," said McNally. "This is the best we can do in the current situation to give people a true concert experience, but I think we are all looking forward to things getting back to normal, though that might not be until 2021. We'll get through it. We just need to work together and ask that ticket-holders be understanding that these are unprecedented times and small venues are struggling to stay alive."

McNally needed to get a special events permit from the town of Swanzey. All permit applications are reviewed by the Special Events Review Committee, which is made up of staff from the Swanzey Police Department, Fire Department, Public Works Department, and Planning and Code Enforcement Department. Permits have to be approved by the Board of Selectmen.

According to Matthew Bachler, Swanzey's director of Planning and Economic Development, special event applications require plans for traffic control, medical services, ticket distribution and sanitary facilities. All concerts, to comply with the town's noise ordinance, need to be over by 10 p.m..

Tickets are general admission and must be purchased in advance online. Attendees can either print their tickets or display it on their mobile phone for no touch entry. Entry is one hour before showtime.

Concertgoers are not required to wear masks in their cars or assigned tailgate area, however, guests are required to wear masks if leaving their space to use the restroom facilities. All event staff will be required to wear masks.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.


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