Driving concerts, attractions highlight fun despite the virus

When the DJ called spectators at a recent event near Tokyo, the response was more visible than audible – with a few car horns, a snap of blinkers and hazard lights, and the flash of pens behind the windows. of the car.

Welcome to the world of the drive-in concert, one of the ways entertainment involving large crowds adapts to the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo provided shows fireworks set off during the final of the two-day drive-through music festival in Chiba Prefecture on August 23, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Afro & Co.) (Kyodo)

The event at the end of last month on the outskirts of Nagara City in Chiba Prefecture was hosted by a party maker with experience of pioneering avant-garde gatherings and was one of the biggest concerts drive -in never organized in Japan.

Riichiro Nakama, popularly known as Afromance, said he started thinking about the event as early as mid-March, when the impact of the pandemic on the arts and entertainment began to be felt.

“I heard news every day of events canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus, and I wanted to give artists and fans a place to perform,” said the CEO of Afro. & Cie Inc.

“Are everyone having fun! One of the DJs asked, leading the audience up to the parking lot of Longwood Station, normally a movie set and event venue.

Music exploded from a pop-up scene, but a dedicated FM radio wave was also available to plug into the car’s interior.

In an instant, the parking lot transformed into a club music stage, filled with lights and special stage effects. Fireworks were set off during the final of the two-day festival, where some 220 cars and around 550 participants came.

Photo provided shows spectators watching a concert at a music festival drive in Chiba Prefecture on August 23, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Afro & Co.) (Kyodo)

“The idea (of this drive-in concert) is not to think that you have to accept the fact of being stuck in a car, but that it is fun precisely because you are in a car”, a declared Afromance, 35.

The pioneer of events such as the ‘Bathtub Cinema’ where guests watch movies on the big screen while bathing in private tubs and ‘Maguro House’, which combines a tuna net show and house music, has said he hopes above all that people “will have a great experience.”

A music festival is “not just listening to music, but going out to experience the vibe of a festival live,” he said.

Not everyone was in their car all the time, but the space was defined by social distancing. A voiceover reminded the audience to wear face masks outside their cars, use hazard lights rather than cheering, and use the LINE messaging app to check if the washrooms are crowded.

Before entering the concert hall, the organizers carried out temperature checks and guided people to their respective parking spaces. Drivers were asked to turn off their engines and keep their distance from other cars.

A drive-in music festival pictured in Chiba Prefecture on August 22, 2020 (Kyodo)

After the festival started around 6 p.m., participants got in and out of their cars, standing or dancing outside their vehicles in a designated area, away from other cars.

“Usually in music festivals we are so close to each other, but here there is distance and yet I can feel a festival. It is a whole new experience to enjoy a festival”, 40-year-old Yuya Yanagita said. -old seller.

Another participant, Osamu Sakai, 42, felt he had the best of both worlds. “I could get out of the car in the cleared space and move around, and when I was tired I could just go back to my car.”

Participants receive a Spotify playlist in advance, and to minimize contact with staff, food can be ordered through the LINE app. Staff on roller skates delivered from stalls serving light meals and drinks. At night, their roller skates light up, as if to blend in with the colorful lights of the stage.

In a subsequent email interview, Shinichi Osawa, a musician and DJ who is part of the Mondo Grosso Project, described his performance as the “most physical” he has had since the coronavirus ended. many of his public performances and other events.

Echoing his sentiments, music producer and DJ Taku Takahashi of block.fm. Takahashi, who is also part of the famous Japanese trio “m-flo”, wrote in a separate interview: “I reaffirmed how great it is to perform – in any form – in front of an audience.”

As challenges such as profitability loom, Afromance, which has shared its know-how beyond Tokyo in organizing such events, sees promising prospects for drive-thru concerts and hopes to inspire others to follow suit. not.

“People can personalize the way they enjoy a music festival like never before,” he said. “I hope this could be a movement for people (in our industry) to look to the future.”

Cast members acting as “ghosts” crowd into car windows during a haunted house drive-through protest at a garage in Tokyo’s Minato district on August 18, 2020 (Kyodo)

Just as music festivals are a summer staple in Japan and elsewhere, so are spooky ghost themes. With virus and social distancing guidelines restricting traditional haunted house operations, a Tokyo-based company producing horror entertainment has come up with a creative twist: what it touts as the world’s first haunted house.

“Since you are in a car, there is no way out. It makes the whole setup even scarier,” said Daichi Ono, a Kowagarasetai staff member, which pretty much means a “scary squad”. .

Ono explained that based on current social distancing guidelines, “ghosts” must wear masks and be more than 2 meters from customers and visitors cannot shout – which would seem to a large extent to thwart the purpose of being afraid in a haunted house.

Cast members acting as “ghosts” lean against the car windows during a haunted house drive demo at a garage in Tokyo’s Minato district on August 18, 2020 (Kyodo)

Since they started providing entertainment in July, 40 to 50 groups have come. The attraction costs 8,000 yen per car for those bringing their own vehicle and 9,000 yen for those wishing to borrow a four-seater.

Demand is high and many are on the waiting list. Ono said: “Many visitors told us it was more terrifying.”

Rather than feeling safe in a car, people are starting to find the confined space oppressive, he said, separated from the “horrors” by just one window.

The location of the show – in a dark and secretive “garage” in Tokyo’s Minato district – is not revealed until a reservation is confirmed.

Once the visitor stops the car and turns off the engine in dark, ominous darkness, a voice begins to tell a horrific story that happened in a garage.

The terror is amplified by the sounds of someone banging on the car as well as a “ghost” or “zombie” suddenly appearing in the side window or in front of the windshield for nearly 20 minutes of spectacle.

“As long as there is a car, we can do it anywhere. That’s our strong point,” said Ono.

An actor cleans a car covered in “fake” blood during a haunted house driving demonstration at a garage in Tokyo’s Minato district on August 18, 2020. (Kyodo)

The pandemic also spurred a revival of drive-ins that were popular in Japan in the 1990s until they eventually died out in part due to an increase in movie complexes.

Do it Theater reopened drive-ins in 2014, several years before the pandemic, but the virus had given more momentum.

“With less entertainment since April, we wanted to provide a place where everyone can have fun and take a break,” said Daichi Ito, CEO of Do it Theater.


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