Drive-in music

  • Spencer Lavoie and Joel MacKenzie of 4Life Entertainment are sponsoring a series of drive-in type concerts at the Franklin County Fairgrounds. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • 4Life Entertainment is holding a series of drive-in type concerts at the Franklin County Fairgrounds. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • A mobile stage unfolds at the Franklin County Fairgrounds, which will host a series of drive-in type concerts. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • A mobile stage unfolds at the Franklin County Fairgrounds, which will host a series of drive-in type concerts. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The New Mosaic will be performing this weekend at Roll On In. Contributed photo

  • Danny Pease & The Regulators are among the regional bands taking the stage this weekend in Greenfield at the Franklin County Fairgrounds. Contributed photo

Staff Writer
Published: 7/23/2020 9:14:05 AM

Picture this: It’s getting late in the evening; a crowd becomes silent with anticipation a few minutes before showtime; it’s dark as the headlining act takes the stage; the lights turn up as the first chord is played and the crowd erupts into cheering.

After months of social isolation, an experience like this — live music — might seem like a pre-pandemic fantasy. A new drive-in venue opening at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield this weekend will make it a reality once again.

Roll On In, a socially distanced live entertainment space, will kick off its inaugural summer season July 24 and 25 featuring regional headlining acts RCA — a super group comprised of Dopapod guitarist Rob Compa with Adrian Tramontano, drummer, and Chris DeAngelis, bassist, of Kung Fu — and the Western Massachusetts band Danny Pease & The Regulators on Friday. Saturday’s concert will feature The Breakfast, an East Haven, Conn. group; Shantyman, a funk group hailing from the region’s hilltowns; and New Mosaic, which performs soul music. Honeycomb, a beatboxer who has received national accolades; Uncle Bob, a performing artist who specializes in mixing; and comedian Timothy Lovett will take the stage both days.

“This is going to be a concert series running for the rest of the summer — every Friday and Saturday night through October,” said Joel MacKenzie, a Springfield-based event organizer who is working with Spencer Lavoie of 4Life Entertainment to put together the concerts.

Next weekend, Moon Hooch, The Alchemystics and The New Motif will play at the venue July 31; Moon Hooch, The Problemaddicts, LUSH HONEY and Honeycomb with Tonio Sagan and Friends will perform Aug. 1. Tickets, which are sold per carload, must be purchased ahead of time online at rolloninshows.com and are not available at the door. General admission for a four-person car is $95; for six people in one car it’s $135. Preferential seating for Friday night shows is $150 for four people. The average per-person cost for regular tickets breaks down to about $20 to $30.

The venue is implementing plenty of precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For example, the stage, which stands about 40 feet tall with a platform that’s 6 feet off the ground, has been positioned facing a field on the backside of the fairgrounds. Organizers have outlined parking for around 200 cars.

“Each space will be a double parking space. The vehicle will pull in on the far right-hand side of the space, the passenger side, and they will have another space on the driver’s side as their home space where they can set up chairs and use that as a hangout area during the show,” MacKenzie said.

Notably, attendees cannot mingle if they didn’t come in the same vehicle. Each group must at all times stay in their allotted space except to go to the bathroom — which are separated and designed to accommodate those with a physical disability — or buy food from the fairground’s concession stand or an on-site food truck. Masks must be worn outside the parking spot. MacKenzie noted there aren’t any trash attendants so attendees need to take all trash with them. Bathrooms will be sprayed and disinfected every half hour. Lines will be carefully monitored to make sure people are keeping well apart and MacKenzie said the venue has a liaison who will be in constant communication with the Greenfield Board of Health to make sure everything is safe.

“Our goal was to take the state’s guidelines and go well beyond,” MacKenzie said, noting Gov. Charlie Baker’s third phase of reopening allows live entertainment to take place outdoors. “The safety component is of utmost importance to us. Because if we start doing this and don’t do it right, the governor is going to come in and shut this down. And rightfully so.”

Besides providing an outlet for the region’s music lovers, MacKenzie says the venue is a potential boon for area musicians and the fairground, which saw its 2020 season disintegrate quickly when lockdown orders were put into place earlier this year.

It’s an opportunity to “to keep our industry going; to get musicians back to work; to get gig workers back to work — there are hundreds of thousands across the country — to bring live music to fans. I see this as the best way to do this and the only way to do this for the foreseeable future,” MacKenzie said, noting they’ll be hiring fair employees to work at the concerts. “Obviously, the fairgrounds has lost a lot of revenue. We’re doing what we can to rent the property from them every weekend.”

Roll On In, which MacKenzie says has been months in the works, came about as an extension of another music event that was supposed to happen this summer in Greenfield but was canceled due to the coronavirus.

“My partner, Spencer Lavoy, with his company 4Life Entertainment, had a festival already planned for the grounds; it was going to be called Carnivroll. We were booked to do that festival in early September. When COVID-19 hit and our industry dried up, Spencer already had a relationship with Michael (Nelson), the president here at the fairgrounds. He was a natural person to approach with this concept and they jumped at it,” MacKenzie said.

While there will be food available for sale — this weekend Bruiser’s BBQ food truck will be serving barbecue fare in addition to that offered by the fairground’s concession stands — attendees are allowed to bring their own coolers. Alcoholic drinks will not be available for purchase. This weekend, gates will open at 3 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; music starts at 4; shows end at 9. Beforehand, vehicles should line up in the field across from the fairgrounds.

And while MacKenzie said tickets have been selling so far, there’s another reason behind the endeavor.

“We’ve offered our site to the city of Greenfield for any Greenfield-based non-proft to use the site,” he said, noting, “If the Greenfield Recreation Department wanted to use the site for a movie night on a Wednesday,” they could do so “at cost,” meaning they’d only have to pay the expenses necessary to have the venue’s technicians put on the show.

Pandemic or not, the show will go on.

“People are extremely excited. The messages have just been flooding in,” MacKenzie said. “There’s been a huge outpouring from bands who are anxious to get back on stage and back to performing.”

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit rolloninshows.com.

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@recorder.com.


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