Rustic Overtones, left to right, Lucas Desmond, Jason Ward, Jamie Colpoys, Dave Gutter, Gary Gemmiti and Jon Roods. Photo by Scott Mohler

Live music options these days are mostly limited to streaming, small outdoor patio performances and indoor shows with a maximum of 50 people, and that’s likely to be the case until next year. But another option has cropped up as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that allows for larger crowds with all-important social distancing: Drive-in concerts.

A drive-in movie theater in Farmington, a seafood restaurant in Scarborough, and recreation departments in Kennebunkport and Brunswick are hosting upcoming shows, including Rustic Overtones, the Don Campbell Band and Chris Humphrey Big Band, all happening this week.

But before you buy tickets to one of these newfangled concerts, you might be wondering what the experience is like and if it’s worth it.

The Ghost of Paul Revere playing at the Narrow Gauge Drive-In cinema in Farmington on June 27, 2020. Photo by Nicole Nittel

Take it from Claudia Diller of Kingfield, who attended the first of four sold-out Ghost of Paul Revere shows at Narrow Gauge Cinema in Farmington in June. Diller said attendants quickly got her group into their socially distanced parking slot, where they set up chairs behind their vehicle. They felt very safe with everyone wearing masks when they weren’t in their own spots.

“The sight lines were great because the drive-in is terraced up from the front to the back, so we were looking down at the band,” said Diller. The drive-in also projected the band on a huge screen behind the stage, and beyond the screen was a big green field and mountains.

Diller said that the crowd was mellow and seemed appreciative of the opportunity to see live music. “The show was good. The band said they were psyched to have a place to play after so many months in isolation,” she added.

Next up at Narrow Gauge is Rustic Overtones, with shows on Friday and Saturday.

Singer Dave Gutter said he is excited to play but also nervous for the first time in a long time. “The isolation of 2020 has made me define myself as a musician, but as a performer I have a little bit of stage fright,” said Gutter. “I’m grateful to perform but feel a lot of pressure, as these will be the shows to define us for 2020. There’s no room for an ‘off night,’ we need to make this one count.”

Gutter said the band has been through a lot since the death of trombone player Dave Noyes last year but that artists find their voices through hardship more than rehearsal. “We have a reputation for harnessing our passion and love for music on stage, and I look forward to these shows being the ultimate form of that expression.”

He has a sense of humor about the situation, too.

“As a fan of film, I am blessed to grace the same stage as greats like Shrek, Pennywise and Han Solo,” he said.

The Mallett Brothers Band is also on the schedule in Farmington, with a show slated for Aug. 15.

Don Campbell is all smiles in the Clambake parking lot in Scarborough on June 6. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

The Don Campbell Band played one of the first drive-in concerts – at The Clambake Restaurant in Scarborough in early June – and the show was such a success that several more were scheduled into October, including one on Thursday.

Campbell and his band set up on a flatbed truck trailer, and attendees can order takeout from the restaurant to enjoy during the show. Admission is free, but you can make donations to the band in the bucket by the side of the stage. Campbell plays a mix of roots, rock, folk and country originals and covers.

Chris Humphrey Photo by Larry Ayotte

Competing for cars of concertgoers on Thursday night is the Kennebunkport Parks & Recreation Department, which is hosting a seven-piece version of the Chris Humphrey Big Band at Parsons Field. Food will be available for purchase or you can bring your own picnic. The show will also feature a cheerful little earful in the form of a tribute to the late jazz vocal duo Jackie and Roy, who formed in the mid-1940s and released nearly 30 albums over the course of several decades. Subsequent drive-in shows are the acoustic trio Fog Ave on July 23, and blues, soul, R&B, country and rock act Lisa Mills Music on Aug. 13

The rec department in Brunswick has also taken on drive-in concert hosting duties. Brunswick Downtown Association is presenting free drive-in shows in the parking lot of Brunswick Parks & Recreation Department, with Band Cilantro playing on Wednesday and local Cajun music act JimmyJo & The Jambol’Ayuhs on July 29. The association expects to confirm acts for shows on Aug. 12 and Aug. 26 soon. Food and drinks aren’t available on site, but you’re encouraged to pick up takeout from one of many local restaurants.

Other things to bring, no matter which show you attend: a face covering for when social distancing isn’t possible, bug spray and a positive attitude. For the last one, just look to the lyrics of British musician Gary Numan’s 1979 new wave hit, “Cars”: “Here in my car, I feel safest of all … Here in my car, I can only receive, I can listen to you, it keeps me stable for days.”


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