The wheels are in motion for the state’s first drive-in concert, to be headlined by Russell Morris in Redland City next month.
Drive-In Concerts Live is the brainchild of Michael “China” Walker, who came up with the concept in partnership with Chugg Entertainment project manager Nick Chugg and music industry lawyer Matt McCormick and the first concert will be held at Cleveland Showgrounds on June 13, with capacity for 260 cars and tickets selling for about $50 plus booking fees per person.
The concept will be similar to a traditional drive-in movie, with a large screen behind the stage showing video of the performers, and attendees tuning their car radios in to a simulcast of the audio.
ARIA-winning singer-songwriter Morris, who now lives on the Gold Coast, will headline the concert, backed by the Masters of Pop, an all-star band comprised of Walker (John Paul Young and the Allstar Band), James Blundell, Tony Mitchell (Sherbet), Steve Mulry (Ted Mulry Gang), Greg Henson (Jon English) and Brett Williams (Choirboys), and supported by The Soul Movers, which features former Wiggle Murray Cook.
Morris admitted to having some trepidation about the concept when Walker, who spearheaded the idea, first raised it with him.
“I think it will be strange, it’s going to be like working in a spacesuit,” Morris told InQueensland.
“There’s always reluctance, it’s like someone takes you to the edge of a pool that you’ve never swum in before and they say ‘jump in’. But usually in my life, I’m the person that’s first to jump in when something like that comes up, so I thought ‘yep, I’ll do it’, and now that I have one foot in the water, I think I’ll be OK.”
Although Morris said he was missing the ability to play live, he was quick to point out that he wasn’t doing this show “for the money”.
“We’re not doing it for the money, because the money is pretty low with this one,” he joked. “But it doesn’t matter – it’s all about connecting with people and getting people feeling human again.”
The concept has already been trialled overseas, with Danish singer-songwriter Mads Langer playing the world’s first drive-in concert in the coastal town of Aarhus in April and Australia’s Keith Urban recently performing a similarly styled gig for 200 health workers in Tennessee.
“I felt like I was in that cartoon Cars, you know the Pixar one?” Urban told BBC following the gig.
Walker said he hadn’t spoken with anyone involved with any of the overseas drive-in concerts, admitting he thought he “was a smarty-pants and came up with the idea until I saw it had already been done in Europe”.
He said he and other organisers had worked closely with Redland City Council and Queensland Health to ensure necessary protocols were in place to keep fans safe, with patrons required to stay in their vehicles during the show except for bathroom breaks, and vehicles to be spaced in an offset pattern to ensure social-distancing between cars.
As a resident of Redlands and a member of the organising committee for Redfest, the city’s largest annual festival, Walker said he had a head start when it came to liaising with council and he hoped this would be the first of several further drive-in concerts and help satiate fans’ hunger for live music.
“As the entertainment sector currently has no hope for gigs other than this, I would be very keen to see if we can do our part in restarting our industry to a small degree and providing hope where there currently is none,” he said.
Originally from Melbourne, Morris said he had long wanted to move to Queensland and has no regrets about deciding to relocate to the Gold Coast a few years ago.
“Every time I came up to Queensland, I always said ‘I’m going to live up here one day’, and I made the move three-and-a-half years ago and I really love it; right now I’m sitting here looking out at the water and all my friends are freezing their butts off in Melbourne.”
Morris, who is arguably still best known for his 1969 psychedelic hit ‘The Real Thing’, has had a career resurgence over the past decade. His most recent album, last year’s Black and Blue Heart, was produced by Bernard Fanning and Nick DiDia, his 2012 album Sharkmouth peaked at No.6 on the ARIA charts and sold more than 100,000 copies, and his 2014 follow-up Van Diemen’s Land hit No.4.
He said he remained grateful for the fact his 1969 single had helped give him career longevity but admitted it also bothered him at times that he was exclusively known for the song by some people despite having had such a long and varied career.
“Yeah, it does” he said. “’The Real Thing’ was a big hit and it’s been around for a long time, it’s been there forever, but the blues albums were my biggest-selling albums.
“When we were asked to do the Red Hot Summer Tour, and I said ‘yeah, that’ll be great.’ They said ‘we want you to play your hits’, and I said, yeah, I will, I’ll play the hits. [And they said] ‘no blues’ … I said, hang on a minute, those blues albums – Sharkmouth and Van Diemen’s Land – were the biggest of my career.
“But I’m also grateful for ‘The Real Thing’ because it’s allowed me to do what I’ve done, and having a hit that big and as iconic as it was has allowed me to do other things.
There were 30 years where I couldn’t really get arrested, but I could always go back and play ‘The Real Thing’ and ‘Sweet, Sweet Love’ and ‘Wings of an Eagle’ and I could put a show together and put food on the table.
Morris was quick to assure fans that he would be performing ‘The Real Thing’ saying, ‘I really quite like playing it live’.
“I’ve embraced it because it gives me a chance to play my slide guitar … I’m a very average slide-guitar player but it gives me a chance to indulge myself and play the solo at the end and probably annoy every guitar player in the country.
“Some people get bored and they find it monotonous playing the same thing. I would if I wasn’t also doing new stuff at the same time.”
Morris advised those with a curiosity to come along and check out the drive-in concert, saying it was “something they’ve never experienced – and something very few people around the world have experienced”.
“Do it for the experience – it may be a good one, it may be a bad one. In life, if you don’t explore new experiences and feelings you stagnate, so I think it’s always good to step into that water that you’ve never jumped into and swim in it. Do something different, experience it, feel something.”
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