Rooftop drive-in concert touted as solution for music lovers during pandemic

Update: Event organizers have postponed the Rooftop Rock concert in Prince George due to a directive from the provincial government. 

When concert-goers attend a rock show at the CN Centre in Prince George, the bands are usually under the roof, not on top of it. 

On Saturday, Prince Georgians are invited to drive their vehicles to the venue’s parking lot for the city’s first free rooftop drive-in concert. Rooftop Rock, the brainchild of city councillor Kyle Sampson, is a possible solution for live music fans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Nothing beats a live event and even though this one is going to look different, it is still going to be special — in fact maybe even a little bit more,” said Sampson.

The rooftop concert is among the creative ways artists are dealing with the restrictions imposed by COVID-19.

Events like concerts and festivals, which are part of Phase 4 of B.C.’s Restart Plan, are unlikely to take place as they normally would any time soon. 

Phase 4 has no determined start date, as it depends how high transmission rates get with the gradual reopening happening in the earlier phases. B.C. is currently in Phase 2. 

Organizers for the Summerset Benefit Concert in Langley, set to take place at the end of August, are hoping to duplicate the drive-in concert model, and are looking for a venue where attendees will be able to sit inside their vehicle, in a truck bed, on top of, or in the open tailgate of their vehicle to watch the concert. 

The group behind Victoria’s Music By The Sea concerts — which are being held virtually on Friday nights on their Facebook page — have placed speakers at the Victoria International Marina for outdoor listening. 

In Esquimalt, musician Jeff Stevenson has planted himself on the banks of the Gorge Waterway, and has serenaded groups of kayakers. 

“I’ve had about 50 people listening, sitting across the river there, and 30 or 40 boats, paddle boats and kayaks,” Stevenson said.

He’s been performing every day, and it’s unlike any other concert he’s done before.

“I do it, really, because I enjoy doing it.”

Members of the band Studio 720 in less physically distant times. (Studio 720/Facebook)

In Prince George, the show kicks off at 7:30 p.m., will feature local five-piece band Studio 720 and will be broadcast on a local FM dial so concert-goers can listen to the audio in their cars. 

Nick Tindale, the band’s drummer, says the plan is to keep the show volume low to discourage people from getting out of their cars, which is strictly forbidden. He said the sound will be just high enough for the volunteers working at the site to be able to enjoy.

There is a limit of 50 cars, all parked with more than two metres of space between them. They will be parked in a checkerboard fashion so everyone has a good view of the stage.

‘It’s going to be a very interesting experience,” said Tindale, noting he is a bit nervous because he usually draws from the energy a live audience gives off to help his performance.

But he said he does expect a lot of horn honking.

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