Drive-in concerts have become the necessary norm under the pandemic and Southern California’s moderate climate makes it possible for these fan-thankful events to take place late into the year. Enhanced by a complement of Elation Professional lights, Concerts in your Car, presented by CBF Productions at two SoCal locations, are some of the most popular.
Helping to quench the thirst of live music fans, Concerts in Your Car debuted June 26 at the Ventura County Fairgrounds north of Los Angeles and branched out to a second site, the Del Mar Fairgrounds near San Diego, in September. Victor Ortiz, owner of full service audio-visual company Darvik Productions of Ventura, worked together on the project with CBF Productions founder and CEO Vincenzo Giammanco.
“It all started back in April when our first spring festival of the year was cancelled,” recounts Ortiz, who says that he and Giammanco do about a dozen events together in a year. “We started wondering what the year was going to look like and had heard that Europe was starting to do some drive-in shows. We started to brainstorm what a drive-in venue here would look like, how to build it, etc. By the end of April we knew we’d have to pivot and the idea for ‘Concerts in Your Car’ was born.”
Concerts in Your Car at the Ventura County Fairgrounds featured a package of Elation Professional luminaires in a setup that was replicated for the Del Mar site. A typical week at the Del Mar site, which debuted September 25 and has a capacity of 700 vehicles, sees movies on a big screen, hosts local bands or theatre plays, and then stages bigger acts on the weekend. Top acts like hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg, icons The Beach Boys, and local heroes Slightly Stoopid are just a few who have played the venue. Sundays are reserved for church services or private events.
Shows are held on a four-sided stage with a large 14-ft high by 26-ft wide video screen gracing each side. Ortiz and Darvik’s role included coming up with a stage, video and lighting design that could cater to a large, open fairgrounds space.
“It’s a very flat ground that required a high stage so we came up with an 8-ft high, 360-degree stage design that lets cars in the back rows see as well,” said Ortiz, who also oversaw the build as production manager. “Because there is a variety of acts that come in, the lighting design had to be flexible and easy to use. We designed a rig that can cater to all types of acts with effects that light it up at night under all kinds of weather.” Ortiz says he also wanted to cover all sides of the stage as there are cars all the way around it. “It’s been a great design and with performers playing to all sides it gives it a personal touch.”
The designer said that because they wanted to avoid followspot towers that would obstruct vehicles, bands of Elation Seven Batten 72s were placed all around the stage that act as footlights/key lights. “They work amazingly well and the punch and colour is just beautiful,” he says of the colour-changing LED battens with 7-colour multi-chip LEDs. On each side of the stage are powerful Cuepix 16 IP matrix LED panels with all-weather protection that serve as blinders and houselights.
Spread throughout the rig as backlight, and mounted in a centre circle truss for stage lighting, are Seven Par 7 IP par wash luminaires, which are also used as truss warmers to set the entire structure aglow. In one of Ortiz’s favourite looks in the build up to the show the base colour goes pink as cars enter the site. The look reflects the Concerts in Your Car branding and the colour scheme returns at the end of the show.
Concluding the Elation package, Protron 3K Color LED strobes work from the circle truss for special effects while SixPar 100 colour-changing Par lights highlight branding on the structure’s skin. Other automated lights also make up the lighting package and some acts do bring in a supplemental floor package. Atmospheric haze and mid-air projection canopy is provided by Antari M-11 foggers.
Darvik Productions supplied all the lighting for both Concerts in Your Car sites and worked with Elation’s Raul Fonseca on the Elation portion of the rig. “Raul was an amazing partner in the build of our Del Mar venue. I’ve known him since before founding Darvik and he has always been there for us as part of the team,” said Ortiz, who started Darvik Productions in 2012 with Elation as the first lighting equipment he acquired.”
“Concerts in Your Car” has not only been a success with many events selling out, it has fulfilled a need for music lovers to experience live events again. “With the limitations we have to face today, it has been a form of entertainment that our community has truly enjoyed and appreciated,” Ortiz concluded. “We’re glad we’ve been able to be a part of it.”