Cleveland band playing drive-in concert Thursday

After Trop-ing the Block a year ago, Tropidelic will Trop the drive-in.

The Cleveland band with a large regional following — it played to about 1,000 people last year headlining Trop the Block in downtown Youngstown — will play a concert Thursday at Skyway Drive-In in Warren Township. While some drive-ins around the country have hosted live music during the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday’s event will be the first of its kind locally.

Tropidelic frontman Matthew Roads said, “We’re just trying to stay ahead of the curve with the changes in the industry. Keeping people entertained is the name of the game.”

The outbreak of the coronavirus shuttered indoor venues such as House of Blues that Tropidelic normally plays and canceled many of the outdoor festivals where Tropidelic works in the summer. Not counting the livestreamed concerts, this will be the band’s first show in front of a live audience since a Las Vegas gig on March 11.

“That’s our longest break in a lot of years,” Roads said.

Ending that break involves a lot of risk and logistical challenges. Tropidelic approached Skyway’s owners about using the venue and is working without a promoter. That means renting a stage, bringing in sound and lighting and hiring a company to set up multiple cameras that will film the concert and project the show live on the drive-in screen behind the band so everyone in attendance will have a great view of the action on stage. The video also will have to be synced with the audio sent to each car by an FM transmitter.

“There’s a lot to it, and a lot that can go wrong,” Roads said.

Also, because drive-in concerts are a new phenomenon, there isn’t anyone to consult for guidance.

Tickets are being sold by the car — $90 per vehicle for up to four passengers and available online at www.skywaydrivein.com — and about 200 vehicles will be allowed at the drive-in, about 100 fewer than full capacity. VIP tickets sold out within a couple days, and Roads said 50 to 60 vehicle passes remained as of midday Tuesday. Fans are coming from as far away as New York, Michigan and Illinois.

Concertgoers will have to follow the same protocols that movie audiences do, Roads said, and one thing that makes drive-ins an appealing option is they already have those social distancing procedures in place.

Roads admitted it will be different having small groups of fans clustered around their vehicles compared to the mass of dancing fans that normally crowds the stage for its mix of reggae, rock, funk and hip hop. But the band has been forced to adjust to more than that with its livestream shows. One fully staged online performance in early April was watched live by as many as 2,500 people and had nearly 80,000 views in its first 24 hours.

“With that interaction absent, it was so strange and surreal,” Roads said. “It has to be an improvement from that situation.”

The band was in the studio earlier this week working on its next album, which could be released by fall. The first single “Snowman,” is a collaboration with Dirty Heads that has been streamed about 500,000 times since late April. The next single, “New World,” will be released later this month or in early July and was written just as the music industry — and the rest of the world — was starting to shut down.

“It’s definitely new territory for us,” Roads said. “We’re taking an opportunity to re-examine our direction.”


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