Riverside Concerts Summer Car Park Series

Riverside Concerts Summer Car Park Series

By Kate Klaus

As the Covid19 pandemic expanded across the globe, it quickly became apparent that the world of music performance would be immensely affected.  With all venues, ranging from arenas and theaters to small independent stages and bars, shut down from coast-to-coast, musicians, promoters, and event support staff have been challenged to work outside of conventional show arrangements to continue to bring music, a source of healing and comfort, to audiences. 

In Rochester, MN, the city music department, Riverside Concerts, recognized in the spring that the usual summer series, Down by the Riverside, would not be possible to achieve with social distancing measures.  The Riverside Concerts team, led by general manager Steven Schmidt, began testing out alternative options to continue musical performances for the city, leading to the creation of the Riverside Concerts Summer Car Park Series. This 7-week series included local and Midwest bands, highlighted below, performing on the patio at 125 Live, and incorporated both a drive-in audience and a multi-angle, high quality, live-streamed show.  The series was co-sponsored by Think Bank, sponsor of the annual Down by the Riverside series, and also co-sponsored weekly by additional local radio stations and the city of Rochester.  Many considerations had to be made to allow these concerts to happen safely, including masking of all event staff and all performers except vocalists, safe distancing of cars, and coordination with the city of Rochester safety regulations.  The Riverside Concerts team worked hard to make this possible to bring these shows to the city.  With a little help from Mother Nature, each show was performed under a beautiful sunset backdrop, enhancing the healing and invigorating ambience of the shows, and with a chorus of honking cars replacing the absence of applause, creating a fun avenue for audience-performer interaction.

Week 1 – Karate Chop, Silence – The funky, alt-rock group from Winona, MN opened the series with a fun set of lively and animated tunes.  Their energy was contagious, and towards the end of their performance, a song that is usually an audience sing-along, was turned into a “honk-along”, a fun new twist in audience participation. 

Week 2 – Under the Pavilion – This 70s/80s garage rock band out of Rochester brought another high energy show under another beautiful summer sky.  The loud bass and thumping drums could be heard all along the river, backing the guitar riffs and vocals.

Week 3 – Good Morning Bedlam – To a backdrop of hot air balloons and another beautiful sunset, this spirited folk band delighted the audience with deep thumping bass, beautiful violin melodies, and vibrant vocal harmonies. 

Week 4 – Debbie Anthony – Minnesota country singer Debbie Anthony sang a beautiful emotional set, backed by a talented group of local musicians.  While the threat of rain hung off in the distance, her gorgeous vocals were complimented by a stunning sunset.

Week 5 – General B and the Wiz – Minneapolis indie, psych-rock band General B and the Wiz had a unique and charismatic set of lively tunes, rocking guitar riffs, jazzy piano solos, and fun banter for a great evening of entertainment. 

Week 6 – Hair of the Dog – Rochester based musical collective Hair of the Dog played a fun range of rock, rootsy, rich tunes with enjoyable accordion melodies and organic vocals to a sold-out car park crowd. 

Week 7 – Dead Horses – Closing out the summer series, Milwaukee based folk/Americana band Dead Horses took the audience on a musical journey with their story-telling lyrics, haunting melodies, and rich indie-folk undertones. 

These sold-out shows were a great testament to the success that can be achieved with out-of-the box thinking and teamwork as the music industry attempts to navigate performance capabilities during a pandemic.  And for those of us that were lucky to get to enjoy this live music event this summer, with the scene so limited, it was a treat to witness this unique type of concert experience.