Country music superstar Alan Jackson returned to the concert stage this weekend…and thousands of music lovers longing for a live music experience joined him. Jackson’s “Small Town Drive-In” events Friday night in Cullman, AL and Saturday evening in Fairhope, AL are the largest live music events the U.S. has seen in over three months.
Photo Credit: Studio Moderne
While based on a drive-in movie setting, the concerts were not staged at such theaters (which can often hold 400 or fewer vehicles) – Jackson’s concerts were performed in large open spaces (York Farm in Cullman…and 300-acre Oak Hollow Farm in Fairhope). A sea of over 2000 cars, trucks and SUVs greeted the Country Music Hall of Famer Friday in Cullman – some 2300 lined up to see him Saturday in Fairhope.
“I love cars,” the known auto enthusiast said from the stage with a smile, adding, “We’re just glad to get out of the house and have a good time with y’all.”
Friday’s event drew people from well beyond nearby cities of Birmingham and Huntsville – fans came from Atlanta, Nashville and even rural Ohio and Pennsylvania to experience live music. Saturday’s concert saw country music lovers from nearby Mobile and Pensacola having a “Good Time” alongside others from as far down the Gulf Coast as Louisiana and Texas.
Both events were staged only after receiving state and local government approvals, with a commitment to current health guidelines. Vehicles were parked several feet apart…patrons were asked to stay with their cars, enjoying the concerts from the hood, the roof or the tailgate…and signage throughout the ground reminded people of social distancing.
Safety was front-of-mind for organizers throughout the planning and execution of the events. On Saturday, a threat of lightning forced organizers to delay the concert’s start for a brief time and ask staff and patrons to shelter accordingly…but fans waited patiently even in the midst of some traffic delays.
A massive PA system…huge video screens staggered across hundreds of feet…and a festival-size stage allowed concertgoers to experience live music again, much as they would at any traditional, large-scale outdoor concert event…elevating the experience well-beyond a traditional drive-in setting.
Jackson was ready for his return to the stage, displaying the understated “everyman” image that has earned him three CMA Entertainer of the Year awards. The much-awarded singer-songwriter treated fans to a slew of hits, including such signature songs as “Gone Country,” “Chattahoochee,” “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” and “Good Time,” a song that captured the spirit of the events. Singer-songwriter Cory Farley, a fan favorite from Jackson’s AJ’s Good Time Bar in downtown Nashville, opened the shows.
And Jackson clearly had a good time himself – before Friday’s inaugural event, he and wife Denise jumped in the bed of a red Chevy pickup and drove up and down the aisles of vehicles, waving to cheering fans as all celebrated the return of live, full-scale country music concerts.