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Crawford & Power performed to a sold-out vehicle audience in the Salem Civic Center’s parking lot June 18. It was the first drive-in concert hosted by the venue in its 53-year history.

It doesn’t seem so long ago that cultural observers were lamenting the extinction of the drive-in theater.

The Americana icon has survived, though, and the global coronavirus pandemic might be kick-starting a new model for cinemas al fresco. A Christiansburg venue is right in the thick of things.

Starlite Drive-in is one of at least 250 nationwide set to host screenings of a Garth Brooks performance tonight. The 9 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. shows are $100 per car, with up to six people per car, depending on the number of seat belts.

Many of the theaters, like the Starlite, will host two screenings, in order to get the maximum number of fans on their lots. Some venues have set up makeshift drive-ins for the night.

“This drive-in concert allows us all to get back to playing live music without the uncertainty of what would be the result to us as a community,” said “The Dance” singer, in a statement to Billboard magazine. “This is old school, new school, and perfect for the time we are in.”

The Brooks show is part of a developing trend in this era of physical distancing and face masks.

While we’re on the subject of face masks, how about a quick tangent: If you aren’t wearing one around an indoor crowd, and you’re not giving people their space away from your breath, you literally don’t care if you get someone else sick. Is that all your so-called “freedom” is good for?

Away from my soap box, multiple acts are getting into the drive-in scene. Live Nation announced last week its “Live from the Drive-In” series, scheduled for July 10-12 in Tennessee, Missouri and Indiana, according to multiple published sources. Brad Paisley will headline all three, with Darius Rucker, Jon Pardi and Nelly opening, Variety magazine reported.

Those will be parking lot gigs with a drive-in format, but with the performers live and on stage.

New Orleans acts including Galactic and Tank & The Bangas, both of which have played shows in the valleys in recent years, are playing “The NOLA Drive-In Concert Series” at a New Orleans arena. Los Lobos, Andrew McMahon, Alan Jackson and more have gigs lined up for concert commuters, according to Billboard magazine.

Salem Civic Center recently made its own drive-in setup, behind the half-century-old shed and in front of the Salem Baseball Stadium. Crawford & Power played the June 18 show to a sold-out vehicle audience of 200. Civic center general manager Wendy Delano said in a text message exchange that an estimated 800 people were there.

“Everyone enjoyed it and many who were in attendance said they are looking forward to more,” Delano wrote. “We are working on lining up some additional shows in the future, but none confirmed at this time.”

In adjacent live entertainment news, Barter Theatre, in Abingdon, is putting on a production of “The Wizard of Oz” at that town’s Historic Moonlite Drive-in Theatre. It will premiere July 14.

None of this is a perfect solution to the problem that COVID-19 posed to the live music industry. But it should be fun, if we take this for what it is — a set of diversions in a weird time that doesn’t seem to be letting up near enough.

Gems from the inbox

  • A Verve Records email touts a long-unheard live performance from one of the greatest jazzers, Thelonious Monk. An ambitious kid in 1968 booked Monk and his quartet — tenor sax man Charlie Rouse, bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley — to play Palo Alto High School in California.

The unlikely concert in a segregated town during a time of racial tension survived via recording, and on July 31, “Palo Alto” drops for the world to hear. Check out his son, T.S. Monk, talking about it at youtu.be/ZV8hW6d0EtA. Hear the band play “Epistrophy,” and check out ordering options at theloniousmonk.lnk.to/paloaltoEM.

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