A segment on PBS NewsHour this week took a look at the effects of coronavirus on the live concert industry and how musicians are rolling with the changes. The public television news program turned to Spafford guitarist Brian Moss to provide some insight on the now-burgeoning drive-in concert scene.
Spafford was one of the first acts to perform a drive-in concert back in May at Digital Drive-In in Mesa, AZ. The sold-out show was a resounding success and audiences have seen a slew of other artists get in on the trend since then, including Aqueous, moe., Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and many more.
The segment, titled “Pandemic brings challenges, new opportunities for music industry”, examines the effects of the ongoing live music shutdown through a variety of sources and angles. First up was D-Nice, a DJ born Derrick Jones, who has taken to hosting online “Club Quarantine” sessions on social media. When he started back in March only a few hundred people would tune in, but now his “crowds” have swelled to over 100,000 worldwide, with notable celebrities like Michelle Obama tuning in.
Next up was Spafford, appearing at about the 2:25 minute mark. NewsHour anchor Jeffrey Brown heralds Spafford as one of the first acts to attempt the drive-in concert on American soil, and the tone of the interview is positive in that it paints the group as innovators.
“You were probably worried about when you would get up there at all, right?” Brown asked. “So, there you were. And what happened?”
“It felt totally new,” Ross said. “I was playing a G, chord and I was like, man, this is just the best-sounding G chord I could ever play. Like, every note had a different feeling. It felt like I was relearning how to play in a band like all over again.”
When Brown asked whether or not these drive-in concerts will be able to keep the band afloat, the conversation turned more pragmatic.
“No, this is not a way to keep the band financially stable,” Moss said. “It won’t break us, but the joy of playing music and the joy of bringing music to our fans is the most important part in something like this.”
Also featured in the interview was Dayna Frank, owner of the Minneapolis, MN venue First Avenue, as well as founder of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). Through NIVA, Frank and a coalition of nearly 2,000 fellow independent venues have banded together to lobby for more expansive financial aid for clubs across the country. Frank cites a study that shows that for every $1 spent on a concert ticket, $12 is generated for the local economy in restaurants, hotels, cabs and more.
“I know that the music is ultimately saving lives,” D-Nice said to close the segment. “I don’t want to think of myself as an essential worker, but I know that there are people out here that truly needed this experience.”
Watch Spafford guitarist Brian Moss on PBS NewsHour here.