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Tank & The Bangas, Galactic, Revivalists headline drive-in socially distant concert series at UNO Arena

An innovative new concert series comes to New Orleans in July as we navigate a new socially distant normal in the world of concert-going.

by Angela Calonder
July 8, 2020

While there’s surely never a good time for a pandemic, the COVID-19 crisis and subsequent shutdowns arrived in New Orleans with particularly poor timing. Festival season was upon us: the only worthy follow-up to Mardi Gras, that wonderful time of year where practically every weekend is marked with a fest of the oyster or Satchmo or jazz variety before the temperature starts threatening triple digits and we’re all forced back indoors for the bulk of the daylight hours.

Initially, it seemed we’d get a double dose of revelry come the fall. French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest were both penciled into tentative October weekends, while Voodoo Fest always takes place Halloween weekend. But by April it was clear that some semblance of social distancing would likely be necessary even that late in the year, and all festivals were rescheduled for 2021 at the earliest.

Around the world, people were finding ways to cope with the sudden lack of access to live music (I’m sure we all remember those balcony-bound Italians), and New Orleans was no different. Local radio station WWOZ hosted “Jazz Festing in Place: an On-Air Festival” featuring live sets of favorite artists from previous Jazz Fests. The House of Blues joined many local venues in presenting livestreams of bands playing on their stages to empty concert halls. Artists also took it upon themselves to bring music to their fans through innovative use of social media — I personally was a fan of Trombone Shorty’s socially distant jam sessions with himself.

Now that we’ve had a few months to get used to the possibility that a socially distant existence is the “new normal,” the producers of Voodoo Fest have gotten innovative themselves. Perhaps inspired by the resurgence of drive-in theaters brought about by the coronavirus, they’ve organized the NOLA Drive-In Concert Series, to be hosted over the course of three Fridays in July at the UNO Lakefront Arena.

Who’s performing?

A different set of hometown heroes— all of whom were scheduled for performances at Jazz Fest 2020— will take the stage each week. Tank & the Bangas, who exploded on the scene after a unanimous victory in NPR’s Tiny Desk Competition in 2017 and were nominated in the Best New Artist category at this year’s Grammys, will kick off the series on July 10. Though the group was disappointed to have to call off a string of US and European concert dates through the spring and summer, their Instagram is chock-full of fun performances they’ve put on for fans from a distance. These include a set for the House of Blues’ ‘For the Culture’ series, a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert from front-woman Tarriona “Tank” Ball, and a virtual performance for Essence Fest. No doubt they are looking forward to being in front of a live audience again.

 

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Galactic, who were in the final weeks of their 25th-anniversary tour when forced to start canceling live performances in March, will headline the Drive-In Series on July 17. The band is a funk mainstay, and they made themselves all the more indispensable to the New Orleans music world in 2018 when they purchased Tipitina’s, the storied Tchoupitoulas music venue that had fallen into financial uncertainty. They’re known for featuring a rotating ensemble of musicians, including local female vocalists, on their albums and tours; in the past they’ve been fronted by the likes of Maggie Koerner and Erica Falls. In the current incarnation of the band, it’s none other than Anjelica “Jelly” Joseph—one of the “Bangas” of Tank & the Bangas—on the mic.

 

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Finally, the Revivalists will close out the NOLA Drive-In Concert Series on July 24. They’re a local rock act who’ve been steadily gaining fans and traction since their formation in 2007, and they’d just added a slew of new dates to their 2020 Into the Stars tour (where Tank & the Bangas were scheduled to open many of the shows) when they were forced to start announcing their own cancelations. On July 7th they excitedly posted, “117 days since we last saw you all, but only 17 until we see you again. We’re ready to rock that stage!” Not that anyone’s counting, of course.

 

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Going? Here’s what you need to know

So how does a drive-in concert work? Well, you pay per vehicle ($100 for GA; $135 for VIP, which gives you access to the two rows of cars closest to the stage), and that serves as admission for as many people as legally fit in the vehicle. All guests MUST arrive in a vehicle. Large vehicles like buses and RVs are not allowed. Screens will be set up on either side of the stage for easier viewing, and there will be an FM station to which attendees can tune if they can’t hear the speakers well enough.

The vehicle pass gives guests access to a 20’ x 17’ space, which is intended to serve as space for their vehicle and tailgating while still maintaining a 6-foot buffer between the next space. Masks are not required while attendees are in their designated spaces, but will be required when moving between their vehicle and the restrooms. To limit person-to-person contact, there will be NO concessions for sale at the venue. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own food and drink, but should bear in mind glass and on-site cooking is prohibited.

For a full list of festival information, visit the festival website: https://www.voodoofestival.com/information

Angela Calonder is a globetrotting photographer and blogger who is happy to call New Orleans home.

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