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Mar. 28—While some pandemic trends from last year will fade because of widespread vaccination efforts, drive-in music concerts are here to stay — at least through 2021.
Country singer Keith Urban launched the effort early last year, providing a live concert experience at outdoor drive-in theaters where people could enjoy themselves while observing social distancing. Instead of playing to thousands in venues in major cities, big-name acts played to hundreds, most of them inside cars or sitting on folding chairs, in towns most people wouldn't readily recognize: Sparta, Tennessee; Mitchell, Indiana; Beaufort, South Carolina; and Guin, Alabama.
America's remaining drive-in theaters are located mostly in small-town settings, so the people there can access events they normally wouldn't be able to see without a long drive or an airplane flight.
The Lamar-based Barco Drive-In will host Christian hip-hop artist TobyMac and his Diversity Band at dusk on Sunday, April 18. Special guest Cochren & Co. will also make an appearance.
"We did (these concerts) out of necessity last year because of COVID and social distancing — and we're still going to social distance — but we're coming back because we had so much fun," said Toby McKeehan, aka TobyMac. "People on blankets, hanging out of the back of trucks, people sitting on top of their trucks — it was insane. We absolutely loved it."
This isn't a pre-taped performance or a live event from another state shown on the drive-in's big screen. The musicians will be on stage in Lamar that night, with their performances shown behind them on the big screen.
This is will be a new experience for the Barco Drive-In this year as it joins Awakening Events' Drive-In Theater Tour, which is making stops in multiple states this spring and summer.
"We did a few (screen-only concerts) last year that were well received, but this will be our first (concert) like this," said Scott Kelley, Barco's manager. "We hope to have more live concerts this summer; we will announce them as soon as possible. I hear they are amazing concerts."
66 Drive-In Theatre
The 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage will host its own concert on Tuesday, May 18, when headliner Skillet plays live in front of its screen. Entertainers Jordan Feliz and Colton Dixon will also perform.
Unlike the Barco, the 66 Drive-In is currently closed for the season; it last showed "Die Hard" and "Gremlins" in mid-December. It will open back up for the spring and summer run next month. Last year, it hosted two concerts — TobyMac and the Australian-based Newsboys United. Both drew enthusiastic crowds.
The concerts, owner Nathan McDonald said last year, "fell right into our wheelhouse."
Other Awakening Events-sponsored performers playing in the more rural areas of America include Steven Curtis Chapman, Big Daddy Weave, Michael W. Smith, Zach Williams, Mack Powell, Cain and Casting Crowns.
Tickets for the concerts can be found at www.driveintheatertour.com or www.awakeningevents