Bon Jovi Rocks The Drive-In This Weekend

Bon Jovi headlines a unique concert experience this Saturday
Bon Jovi headlines a unique concert experience this Saturday Poster art courtesy of Goldin Solutions

Walter Kinzie has vivid memories of the first concert he ever attended. He spoke about it with fondness and a sense of awe that seems to have never diminished despite the years and his many experiences around celebrities and big-name music artists.

“My first concert ever was Asleep at the Wheel opening up for Brooks & Dunn at Coffeyville Interstate Fair and Rodeo in Coffeyville, Kansas. I was six years old and that was my first concert ever,” said Kinzie, CEO of Encore Live. “We had to sneak in. My family could not afford tickets. It was an outdoor show, we snuck in and quite literally we sat on top of a barn at the very, very back of this fairground and we watched it from the top of this barn. And, it was unbelievable. I’ll remember that night for the rest of my life.”

Kinzie’s production company has created memorable nights like that for others, most recently through Encore Drive-In Nights. The concert series, which runs at drive-in and outdoor theaters across North America and in 38 countries, was developed and launched last year in an effort to keep live music alive and industry professionals at work. The second season of the concert series, which drew more than one million fans last year, kicks off Saturday, May 22 with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act Bon Jovi.

“When we built this thing our number one goal was creating an affordable option for people to see world-class entertainment and few bands have had a more storied career than Bon Jovi,” noted Kinzie. “The other thing I’d add is we wanted something that appeals to everyone and so it was important to me to start off this season, similar to last season, with a band that crosses genres and has a wide mix of a fan base that spans generations. Again, there are very few acts out there that have that, but Bon Jovi certainly does.

“We were excited to see Jon’s enthusiasm about this and we are really excited to see this tailgating concert film come to life on Saturday. It’s a show that was made specifically for this and it’s unbelievable. It’s going to be an incredible evening.”

Moonstruck Drive-In hosts the Houston drive-in concert and a complete list of venues screening the show can be found at the Encore Drive-In Nights website. The concert is one night only and exclusive, as were last season’s shows featuring Garth Brooks, Metallica, Kane Brown and Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani.

“We shot it in Red Bank, New Jersey, which is the home of the band, and we shot it just a couple of days ago, middle of last week,” Kinzie said of the Bon Jovi concert. “It’s just a beautiful, unbelievable showing, we did it right on the Jersey shore, it was just awesome. And it was really interesting to me to see how important this was to Jon and the band. We didn’t just sit there and record a 90-minute concert and then everybody went home. This was a weeks-long, very meticulous process to make sure that Jon was able to deliver the product for his fans that he felt like they deserved.

“I was very proud of how serious the band took this and how meticulous they were in every detail of this thing and it shows in the final product.”

The show will be broadcast at about 300 drive-in and outdoor theaters in North America on Saturday night.

“We’ve made it ultra-accessible for people to go and participate in this,” Kinzie said. “You know, if you’re working parents and Bon Jovi’s playing at the Toyota Center on a Wednesday night, that could be a very tough thing. Your babysitter likely is still in school and you’ve got to work the next day – that’s a very tough thing to attend even if you can afford that ticket. I’m proud of the model that we’ve created. Our content is unique to our platform, you can’t find it anywhere else, it’s made specifically for the platform.

“We’ve made this so it’s accessible no matter where you live. People who live in major cities are used to world-class entertainment coming to town, but if you live in Winner, South Dakota, Bon Jovi doesn’t come to town ever, it doesn’t matter what’s going on. So, I’m really, really proud of that.”

Kinzie said that affordability and accessibility make Encore Drive-In Nights a viable option even after traditional live shows resume en masse. He said future installments will reflect the diversity concert-goers crave, too. For instance, the second installment of this year’s shows is slated for June 12 and will be headlined by Florida Georgia Line. Nelly is a featured guest on that bill.

“You’re going to see multiple genres and a mission by me and my team to create a series this summer and fall that will have a little something for everyone,” Kinzie promised.

“You and I both know that to go see Bon Jovi or Florida Georgia Line up close at one of the venues in Houston that would carry the show, it’s a ticket price that few people can afford. But, whenever you look at my model, you’re able to go see Bon Jovi or Florida Georgia Line for under 15 bucks a person. We’ve made a very affordable model for the vast majority of Americans and the vast majority of people around the world that can’t afford several hundred dollars a ticket.”

Another change that’s planned to keep the shows fresh is presenting them live, in real-time.

click to enlarge 35 million fans and 130 million albums sold globally make Bon Jovi a sure bet for Drive-In Nights - POSTER ART COURTESY OF GOLDIN SOLUTIONS
35 million fans and 130 million albums sold globally make Bon Jovi a sure bet for Drive-In Nights
Poster art courtesy of Goldin Solutions

“No more of this pre-recording and whatnot. If you come to the show at Moonstruck – I can’t give you the name of an artist but let’s just say ‘Major Entertainer,’ live from Madison Square Garden, live from the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, California, live from wherever – you’re going to see this show as it’s happening live, in real time,” Kinzie said, and noted he hopes to offer those as-they-happen shows late this season. “We think that’s a feature that’s going to appeal greatly to our fan base. We’ve invented the technology with partners of ours so now it’s just getting it out to these venues as quickly as possible to be able to execute this.”

“We feel confident and hopeful that our fan base that is using our model will continue to find that value and appreciate the fact that we’re constantly evolving.”

Kinzie reflected back on that Brooks & Dunn show he saw as a grade-schooler and how it set in motion his career bringing concerts and major entertainment events to life. He believes there could be a kid attending Saturday’s Bon Jovi show at Moonstruck or some other venue who could catch the live music bug the way he did that long-ago night.

“Fast forward a few months and my dad was the entertainment chair of our county fair in Labette County, Kansas. My town in Labette County had 137 people that lived in it and I went to this thing that my dad made, this concert that my dad made, and it was only my second concert ever, and the performer was a lady named Michelle Wright and my dad only had a few hundred dollars to put this concert on.

“Three hundred people came out to that show,” he remembered. “Other than the Brooks & Dunn concert, I’d never seen that many people in one place before. It was amazing to me. And, I told my dad when I was seven years old that I was gonna put on concerts for a living. I think that is a testament to the experience.

“Now you think about Bon Jovi, you think about Florida Georgia Line, going into the Toyota Center, going into NRG Stadium – those are 18 and up shows. Moms and dads don’t get to take their kids and introduce them to their favorite music ever. That’s not a thing that happens in live music and that was one of those things that was deeply personal and exciting to me as I watched the first two concerts we produced last summer, the two shows that I was at, we averaged three generations per car. What I got to see was moms and dads introducing their little kids to their favorite music and that is something that can’t and won’t happen in major arenas and stadiums with world- class entertainers.”

Tickets for Bon Jovi’s Encore Drive-In Nights show Saturday, May 22 are available at General admission tickets cost $89 per vehicle, good for up to six people.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.