Metallica and Three Days Grace try their best to adapt a live performance during a pandemic
There are only so many days in a year that have the anticipation of last Saturday. One of your favorite bands is performing in your city. Your excitement is palpable. As the night approaches, you only continue to get giddier. It’s time to leave the house. You grab the keys. The only worry in the world is finding a parking space.
Only one catch: it’s 2020. Due to the raging global COVID-19 pandemic, concerts as we knew them are no more.
That’s where nostalgia steps in with a solution. Metallica and Three Days Grace put on a drive-in concert from coast to coast. And like a moth into flame, metalheads came for a uniquely 2020 concert. The only catch is that there’s no in-house sound system since the venues are mostly pop-up locations. The venue suggested using an alternate sound system than your car stereo—two hours on the car battery is not a great idea if you plan on leaving the parking lot.
For my experience, I used an iPod Nano and a Beats Pill to connect to the show’s FM broadcast. The company running the show was beta testing their app which I could not connect to from my parking spot, with no explanation as to why. Some brought boomboxes to layout in truck beds, others took whatever they had to get the closest approximation of live music possible. As such, I will not be commenting on the audio quality beyond the limits of FM radio.
First up was Three Days Grace, playing an opening set of all their hits, recorded live from an unknown studio. From the get-go, the oddity of playing a live show in 2020 was apparent, as they made their best effort to rile up the crowd as an opening act should, despite playing behind a screen. Despite the awkwardness of the scenario, Three Days Grace played like they were in their element, and their set was filmed just like a normal concert movie.
Metallica started their set after a one-minute countdown between the shows. The band began with their trademark curtain-raising instrumental song “The Ecstasy of Gold” (originally composed by Ennio Morricone) and opening on a sunset stage in a secret Northern California location. No stranger to filming their concerts, they made an excellent showing with all the lights and theatrics that one should expect. Metallica even made the effort of playing clips of their crew changing out guitars, banter amongst the band and with the audience between songs. Their crowd work was more natural than that of Three Days Grace, mostly just joking between themselves, including a shout out, with lead singer / guitarist James Hetfield even saying, “Quebec, they’re going nuts right now, if I know Quebec.”
At the end of the night, when all the riffs were done cutting through the FM radio static, concert-goers left their drive-ins as satisfied as possible. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that the drive-in experience was clunky at best, and a meager substitute for a real live show. That being said, given the circumstances, I wouldn’t trade it away. It was refreshing to have somewhere to go, to be outside of the house. Even with the subpar sound compared to what I could have had back home, the togetherness and excitement of a live show still beat a typical web concert any day.
This show is a look into the future of concerts and live events going forward in 2020. As we step into Zoom classes, we’re all painfully aware of the problems and awkwardness of trying to have an event worth going to digitally. The drive-in format provides a middle ground between a computer monitor and concert hall that was a welcome change of pace from my normal day behind countless screens. Judging by how full the show I attended was, I’m not alone in wanting to go to a performance, not just log into one.
The Metallica / Three Days Grace show offered a moment’s reprieve; the only major concert to grace the summer of 2020, a reminder of a world so cold.
Photo by Grayson Acri