It may not be what we're used to seeing, but live music is back in the Bayou City.
Stakeholders at Midtown venue, Axelrad Beer Garden, located at 1517 Alabama St., announced on it would stage a drive-in rooftop concert on Saturday, May 23. It will be difficult to get tickets, however, as only 75 spaces for vehicles in the adjacent parking lots will be allotted for the show that will feature local acts, psych-rock act Flower Graves and indie-rock band El Lago, performing on the roof of the property.
Those who can't get in will be able to watch a live video stream of the show from Axelrad's livestreaming website, www.axelrad.io.
The show will start check-in at 6:30 pm with bands starting at 7:30 pm with the sound being transmitted via FM receiver. No alcohol will be sold, Alexrad's interior space will be closed, and no vendors will be on site except for neighboring Luigi's Pizza, which will deliver to vehicles.
Portable toilets will be o- site but organizers are encouraging attendees to wear masks when they must exit their vehicles. Cars will each be given an assigned parking spot, set up to practice social distancing.
It is the first show in Houston in nearly two months as the live music scene has been shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a weeks-long shelter-in-place order by local officials. The closure of venues and cancellation or postponement of hundreds of shows has resulted in millions of dollars in lost revenue and mass layoffs of bar and production staff across the city.
“We’re providing an opportunity for music fans who miss attending concerts to get their fix while bars and music venues are closed,” said Axelrad partner Adam Brackman in a statement. “We’re committed to providing a safe and secure environment to accomplish this and believe that the concept of a drive-in concert allows us to adhere to the current social distancing guidelines and sanitation regulations while creating a way to give work to some of the struggling musicians living in Houston.”
The drive-in concert concept recently popped up, first deployed in Denmark, but has quickly gained steam in other countries, including the U.S. Texas raised experimental electronic artist Marc Rebillet recently announced a summer drive-in tour and Live Nation, one of the world's largest booking agencies responsible for a large portion of shows in Houston each year, recently announced plans for drive-in shows over the next few months. Rumors have been swirling around the city about similar shows but Alexrad beat everyone to the punch.
“We love supporting local musicians and it’s important to us that we continue that tradition even as we are all navigating through this unprecedented time,” said Monte Large, also a partner in Axelrad.
While the experience of attending a live concert will be diminished with the Alexrad show, there is good news. The concert is free, with those lucky to score tickets being asked to contribute a pay-what-you-can donation that will benefit Alexrad staff, bands, Houston Arts Alliance, and Houston Music Foundation, the latter two assisting out of work performers with grants.
“Axelrad has always been deeply committed to the Houston arts scene. For years they’ve hosted performances and supported local musicians, and used their position in our community to give back,” Rachel Austin of Houston Music Foundation tell CultureMap. “We’re excited that Houston Music Foundation has been chosen as a beneficiary of this event, and grateful to Adam and the Axelrad team for their support.”
Organizers said the May 23 show will be a test run for a potential string of rooftop performances that may continue as long as health guidelines require bars and music venues to keep their doors closed. This will surely be a welcome respite for music fans from the unprecedented drought of concerts with no definitive return in sight for the live shows they are used to attending.