Concert withdrawals have been hitting me hard. I can’t wait for the day when I can again enjoy music in a crowded venue—but for now, a couple in Joshua Tree has come up with a great idea: drive-in concerts.
Jacqueline and Jeremie Levi Samson are spearheading the Drive-In Concert on the Mesa series. Every Sunday at sunset, music-lovers can drive up to Joshua Tree and indulge in a concert experience from their socially distanced vehicles.
Jeremie Levi Samson is a renowned jazz violinist, and has played more than 1,500 shows all over the world. I spoke to the couple over the phone about the inception of the series—and the future of concerts in general.
“March 21 was the first week that we did it, and we’ve been doing them every Sunday since, except for one,” Jacqueline said. “We weren’t sure that week what was going on with the stay-at-home order and social distancing, but the following week was when San Bernardino County decided they were going to allow drive-in church services. So we decided if we follow the same guidelines, we were going to continue to do the concerts.
“I had this idea back at the end of March; it just kind of came to me. We have 15 acres out here that we haven’t really used. I think I was reading an article when everything was just starting to shut down, and I read a comment somebody wrote, saying, ‘Oh, we can just meet our friends in parking lots, in our cars?’ That kind of just sat with me. I thought: Why don’t we just have people in their cars on our property and play the music? So that’s where it started. Several weeks after, we started seeing drive-in churches and even some other drive-in concerts.”
While 15 acres is a lot of space, Jacqueline and Levi make sure social-distancing guidelines are followed by capping attendance and requiring advance registration—so make sure you RSVP early. In fact, the RSVP list for the May 24 show, featuring Deanna Bogart and Band, is already full.
“We do have a big property, but we didn’t want to have too many people, so we do limit it to about 30 cars on registration,” Jacqueline said. “The most that we’ve had so far was 22 cars. Some cars just have one person, and some cars have four or five, depending on the family. We’ve even had big vans coming, and they open the back of their van, and they have a little party.”
The website also promises a livestream of the performance for people who can’t make it. However, the middle of Joshua Tree isn’t the best place for an internet connection, Jeremie said.
“What we are going to do this week is record it and livestream it from a place where there’s a good connection,” Jeremie said. “We really hope to develop an audience from this. It’s a nice place and a nice view, but in terms of livestreaming, we’ve been having a bad connection. We are planning to record on our iPad and iPhones, but we are also planning to record it with some good cameras and do a nice multi-cam view to share on Facebook, YouTube and other social media.”
While a majority of the concerts have featured Jeremie, he is calling on some friends for upcoming shows. The shows are free to attend, but online tipping is encouraged.
“Jeremie has been playing here in the valley for four years now, so we know a lot of musicians, and we have a network of friends,” Jacqueline said. “In the beginning, it was just Jeremy and some local musicians up here in Joshua Tree, and then as more and more musician friends heard about it, they’ve been wanting to come and play, so we’ve been able to invite guest musicians for almost every show.”
Said Jeremie: “We started local for the reason you can imagine, so it’s mostly just people around here. It’s going to get more and more open from now on.”
Jeremie and Jacqueline admitted that experiencing a concert from a car may not be ideal, but it is still an overall enjoyable time.
“I think it’s going to be the new normal for at least the next year, year and a half or so,” Jeremie said. “I think it’s already a cool thing, and I hope everyone will experience it. It’s surrealistic, and I don’t think I would like for it to become the everyday concept.”
Jacqueline added: “Yeah, you are stuck in your car, but it’s still a really nice experience, at least the ones that we’re doing out here in the desert. It’s beautiful. You have the Joshua trees; you have the sunset; you have the mountains; you’re out in nature. People can sit on top of their car or in their trunk; we’re OK with that as long as they don’t leave their car, and it’s a really nice experience for people.”
Jeremie and Jacqueline said they’re willing to work with others to explore the possibilities of this new concert paradigm.
“We’re happy to hear from other musicians if they want to collaborate or open up the space on other nights and have just, like, a completely different band or musicians play—anything we can do to help that community,” Jacqueline said. “They can contact us and collaborate. Everything is on the website with contact info.”
For more information on the Drive-In Concert on the Mesa series, visit www.jeremielevisamson.com/drive-in-concert.