"We used to do this illegally all the time! We’d have parties out in a damn field till the cops would come." So confessed Shinyribs leader Kevin Russell on Friday night from the stage of the Haute Spot, a Cedar Park outdoor event space that launched a monthlong "Love & Lighststream" series of drive-in concerts over the weekend.
Russell and his big band of swamp-pop merrymakers took the stage around 9:40 p.m. to cap a marathon event that began at 4:45 p.m., just as a cold front had rolled through Central Texas. Temperatures in the 50s were chilly but appreciated by those who wrapped up in coats and blankets and celebrated what might finally have been the arrival of autumn in the region.
PHOTO GALLERY: Friday’s Love & Lightstream drive-in concert in Cedar Park
The Haute Spot, located about a mile southeast of HEB Center at Cedar Park, is basically just a big open field. But it’s a good one, level and grassy and spacious, all of which make it well-suited to drive-in events. An August concert there that featured David Ramirez, Jackie Venson and others was successful enough to spawn a full series that will continue with concerts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the next three weekends.
Tickets aren’t cheap, ranging from $100 to $275 per vehicle ($1,000 VIP packages also are offered.) For most events, up to six people are allowed per vehicle, which can lower the cost significantly for attendees carpooling and splitting the cost. Proceeds, according to the event’s website, are split between the artists, the production crew, and local nonprofits Black Fret and Health Alliance for Austin Musicians.
When you arrive, event staffers check your ticket and provide a few handouts from sponsors. On this night, that included an eight-pack of Waterloo Sparkling Water, a couple of Tiff’s Treats cookies, and specialty chips and popcorn. Food and drinks also can be ordered and delivered to your spot by official vendors.
There was some confusion about what you can bring. Information on the website stated "No weapons, grills, dogs or outside alcoholic beverages allowed," but a sign at the entry to the property stated "No outside food or beverages." Staffers on-site seemed to handle any misunderstandings with leeway on Friday, but Love & Lightstream will need to sort out such contradictions moving forward.
Once you’re checked in, event personnel direct you to your viewing spot. Each space is wide enough to accommodate a vehicle plus another parking-space-sized area for tailgating, with a buffer zone of around 10 feet between the ticketed spaces. Rows are separated by wide one-way driving lanes.
My spot was in Row F, six rows back from the stage; that translated to what felt like about 50 yards. Attendance steadily built throughout the afternoon, from about 10 cars for local band Love & Chaos’ opening set, to roughly two dozen for P.R. Newman at 5:45 p.m., to around 50 for Western Youth at 6:30 p.m., and finally 60 or so for Fort Worth’s Grady Spencer & the Work and the Shinyribs headlining set.
Attendees were asked to stay in their allotted spots for the duration of the event, except when using the portable toilets that lined the boundaries of the field at the ends of the car rows. Everyone seemed to comply; some sat on blankets and chairs in their tailgate space, while many stayed in their cars to escape the chilly winds that arrived with the front. Masks were required when leaving your designated area; many attendees did not wear them while in the tailgate space adjacent to their vehicle.
The sound quality was quite good, and plenty loud enough from my vantage point to negate any need for a limited FM-radio transmission that some drive-in events have used (this one did not). Modest-sized jumbotrons on each side of the stage were definitely needed, and may have been a bit small for those who paid lower prices for spots farther back in the field.
The evening clearly was cathartic for many of the musicians. Western Youth’s Taylor Williams said it was the first full-band show his band had played this year, and the joyous intensity of their performance testified to that.
The series continued through the weekend with performances on Saturday by Max Frost, Sam Houston & BLK Odyssy, Bayonne, Dossey and Harry Edohoukwa, and Wild Child, Matthew Logan Vasquez, the Deer, Ley Line and Altamesa on Sunday. Footage from the shows also is being livestreamed for free at loveandlightstream.com.
PHOTO GALLERY: Saturday’s Love & Lightstream drive-in concert in Cedar Park
Here’s the rest of the Love & Lightstream series schedule, with tickets available via the event website:
Oct. 30, 7 p.m.: Grupo Fantasma, Money Chicha and El Dusty
Oct. 31, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. (two shows): Mt. Joy with Night Cap and Kitty Cohen (early), and with Abhi the Nomad and Los Coast (late)
Nov. 1, 5 p.m.: Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Emily Wolfe, Think No Think, Star Parks
Nov. 6, 7 p.m.: Shane Smith & the Saints, opener TBA
Nov. 7, 7 p.m.: Lion Babe, Eimaral Sol
Nov. 8, 5 p.m.: Marc Broussard, Greyhounds
Nov. 13, 7:30 p.m.: Shakey Graves, Caroline Rose (a Nov. 12 show is apparently already sold-out)
Nov. 14, 7 p.m.: Charley Crockett, Blue Water Highway, Kathryn Legendre
Nov. 15, 5 p.m.: Golden Dawn Arkestra, Capyac, Calliope Musicals, Nané