Something strange and special happened in the parking lot at the Arizona State Fairgrounds on Saturday, October 17 – a sound check, for a live band, followed by a friendly reminder for the hundreds of people in attendance to please wear their masks whenever outside their vehicles and maintain social distancing.
And then, 1990s alt-rockers Third Eye Blind ascended the steps onto a stage in the middle of the parking lot and played a 90-minute set complete with a light show, multimedia visual effects and a large LED screen on each side of the stage. People danced and honked their car horns in applause. For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, music fans were at a real, live concert, not watching an online stream or pre-recorded drive-in show. This wasn’t quite like any other concert anyone had ever attended – everyone far apart in a dark, half-empty parking lot, eating fried Twinkies and honking their car horns – but the format provides a safe path forward for live music.
The Third Eye Blind show was the first in the Concerts in Your Car series by CBF Productions at the fairgrounds. Other artists who will play live on the stage in the coming weeks include ska punk band Sublime with Rome and rock band 311.
Here are 10 important things to know if you’re going to go.
1: Tickets are actually “car passes.” Passes are priced by parking tier, with the highest priced car passes closest to the stage in row 1 and the lowest priced car passes furthest from the stage in row 9. You can have as many people in your vehicle as you have seats and seatbelts – with the exception of the Lewis/Erna show, which has a limit of four people per vehicle.
2: Everyone has plenty of personal space. Parking spots are demarcated by orange cones, spaced about 12 feet apart and monitored by attendants who guide drivers into them.
3: There are safety protocols in place. Concertgoers are asked to stay by their vehicles, wear masks anytime they’re outside their vehicles and not eating or drinking and maintain 6 feet from people not in their party. There is a large security team tasked with making sure everyone adheres to those requests.
4: Sound comes from the stage and an FM radio station. The sound surrounds you, amplified from both the stage and hundreds of car stereos.
5: You can bring a cooler. You’re allowed to bring your own food and non-alcoholic beverages. No outside alcohol is allowed. (And yes, your cooler is subject to search.) In fact…
6: “All vehicles are subject to search” – and they are. At the gate, masked security will ask you to open your trunk, they will look inside your car (and maybe your cooler), and they will run a metal detector under and around your vehicle. Drivers don’t need to leave their vehicles.
7: You can buy alcohol at the concert. Several golf carts cruise the parking lot, offering beer, margaritas, hard seltzer, and snacks priced about the same as concessions inside an arena. Typical beer options include Budweiser, Four Peaks Kilt Lifter and Firestone Walker 805.
8: You can order some fried fair food. There are four fair concessions stands open at one end of the lot, offering traditional items like pizza, nachos and corn dogs, plus fried fair favorites like fried Twinkies, Snickers and cheesecake. There’s also a “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Cheese Pickle” on one of the menus. Concertgoers can order online and pick up their food to save time.
9: There are portable bathrooms at each end of the parking lot. They’re clean and stocked with toilet paper and sanitizer. There are also touchless handwashing stations with soap and a foot pedal-operated water faucet.
10: You can socialize with other concertgoers via Zoom. Every car pass purchase comes with a Zoom link people can use to interact with others at the show.