Socially distanced concerts have become the new normal during this time with music lovers and performers working overtime to try to find innovative ways to connect while safely and responsibly providing a live music experience.
Houston’s own Axelrad was one of the first in the state to offer a live music experience at the beginning of the massive shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the midtown bar is doing it again announcing their next rooftop concerts for Saturday, September 12 and September 26.
Though they have remained closed, Axelrad has continued to bring music to fans via their Axelradio, a live virtual streaming series designed to support and highlight local musicians, DJ's and artists.
Axelrad’s first rooftop concert took place back in May and featured local psych rockers El Lago and Flower Graves with concert attendees and online viewers paying what they wanted. El Lago has recently released their full performance online and the evidence of the event's high quality production is clear.
“We were kind of writing our own instruction book as we went so there were a lot of challenges that we faced in terms of how do you put on a production like this? How do you place people in a parking lot that's not meant for this and how do you make it an enjoyable experience for the viewer,” says partner Monte Large.
Large adds, “We might have gone a little bit overboard, we got lasers and big blow up screens for the people who might be in the back. We wanted to make sure that they had a good experience and the thing that I found was really fun and exciting was the people they treated their cars almost like a festival experience.”
“We had a lot of positive feedback,” says Mario Rodriguez, partner and owner of local music agency and record label Wonky Power. Despite a few unanticipated details such as people walking up to view the concert from the street, the event went smoothly.
“Everybody kept their distance and a lot of people really enjoyed it. I think overall it was a successful drive-in and we were all just astonished at the amount of people that were there,” adds Rodriguez.
Check in for the event begins at 6:30 and the show will begin at 7:30 with a DJ set by DJ Seys and DJ Tero followed by Austin’s R&B and funk band, The Vapor Caves and Houston’s synth-pop trio Night Drive closing out the evening.
“It just matches Axelrad very well,” says Rodriguez of the lineup. “We wanted to bring something that was not too slow or too down. Right now we need to bring people up and energize everybody.” The concert will be available through a radio station given to concert goers upon entry to the event and will be projected onto a large screen.
Just like last time, attendees are encouraged to stay in their vehicles and practice social distancing as well as wearing masks while ordering their to-go drinks, ordering food from Luigi’s or using the restroom. Umbrella Fellas will also be on the parking lot grounds for ticket holders to purchase food. Axelrad's indoor bar and garden will remain closed with the exception of their VIP ticket holders which allows access to the rooftop and indoor bars.
For their second rooftop concert Axelrad took a different approach to tickets this time offering tiered ticket prices ranging from $40 to $300 and with each tier offering different benefits to attendees.
Organizers were pleasantly surprised at how quickly tickets sold and only have a few tickets left but soon fans will also be able to purchase tickets to the third rooftop concert, taking place on September 26 with Blushing and Goodgirl. Both events will be live streamed for fans at home and donations are accepted benefiting the artists performing and staff of Axelrad.
Large and Rodriguez hope their second rooftop concert will prove yet again to be a positive experience during a very difficult time for many, especially bars, music venues and musicians.
“In the very beginning everybody was sort of in it together, this was an international emergency and we were all sort of coming together to battle this illness that we didn't know anything about. Unfortunately, bars became the scapegoats when the governor allowed restaurants with heavy bar components to reopen, but then kept bars closed so it really sort of drew this line in the sand and it's been extremely difficult to remain positive,” says Large.
“We have no leadership, no direction from federal level or state level. We acknowledge that we are a bar, we are in the business of people gathering together so of course we don't want to be dangerous, but having an ample and very spacious outdoor space I think we can and will do a very good job of keeping people safe,” adds Large.
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“There's two things going on; one, we want to be open obviously for our employees to have some sort of income and for the community but we also want to do it in a very responsible way so we are watching the numbers everyday,” says Large.
As part of Axelrad’s mission from their beginning in 2015, event organizers are always focused on spotlighting and helping out local musicians more than anything. “We still want to do all we can to support the local music though because if we've been hit hard, they've been hit the hardest so anything we can do to help them, it helps us,” says Large.
Axelrad's rooftop Drive-In featuring DJ Seys, DJ TERO, Vapor Caves and Night Drive will take place Saturday September 12 at Axelrad, 1517 Alabama, check in from 6:30-7:30, show starts at 7:30, $40-300
Saturday September 26 featuring Blushing and Goodgirl details and tickets TBA