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ROCK THE PAVEMENT: Drive-in concerts bring back live music to the Wilson Center

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Uptown Easy is bringing the funk and dance to The Wilson Center’s parking lot concert series. Courtesy photo

 

Instead of piling into the theater this summer, the Wilson Center is presenting a socially distanced new series featuring drive-in concerts. Sponsored by The Wilson Center and Cape Fear Community College Foundation, shows will take place June 25-28 in the surface parking lot behind the Wilson Center, between Front and Second streets.

As venues shuffle their schedules and revamp their business models, the Wilson Center has created the series as a way for audiences to reconnect with the arts in a live setting since March shuttered all events city- and countywide. Ticket holders will remain in their cars for the entire show to adhere to social distancing guidelines. There will be limited amplified sound, as the concert will be broadcast through short-range FM radio transmission. In order to enjoy the live music experience, it is recommended ticket purchasers arrive in a vehicle equipped with a tunable FM receiver.

“There have been a few similar concerts held around the world and we decided to follow suit,” according to Shane Fernando, executive director of the Wilson Center and recently promoted vice-president of Advancement and the Arts at Cape Fear Community College. “Our mission as a performing arts venue is to engage our community any way we can; and if we can’t bring everyone together inside, this is the next best thing. Everyone can still come together and enjoy live music, just at a distance.” 

The concert series will feature well-known performers from the Cape Fear region and will serve as the primary fundraising effort for the CFCC Foundation’s Gift of Education initiative this year. The performance on Saturday, June 27, will be a dedicated fundraising event and feature CFCC Merit Scholar Ava Johnson performing with Uptown Easy.

“This is definitely a first for us,” says Scott Kelly, founder and drummer of Uptown Easy. “I think it’s a creative way to try to get back to pre-quarantine life. The majority of our bookings have been canceled through the summer and we are really missing our fans. Performing for a live audience is always rewarding, even if the applause is replaced by flashing lights and blowing horns.”

All proceeds raised through this performance, and any other directed donations will go to support student scholarships at the college.

While the Wilson Center devised the concept as a counteraction to quarantine life, Fernando likes the originality of the concept. It’s especially helpful since the theater can’t be up in full-force yet. “We look forward to putting on more events like these whether it’s in the form of an outdoor performance or whether it’s a more limited seating arrangement inside,” Fernando says. “Definitely stay tuned.” 

All tickets must be purchased in advance for $40 per car plus taxes and fees; no walk-up ticket sales will be made. Also, $65 tickets are available and include a specially crafted Greek snack platter created by local favorite Angie’s of Chris’s Restaurant. Platter includes savory Spanakopita and chicken souvlaki, pita and tzatziki, crudités, finished off with a rich, sweet, honey-dripped baklava. Alcohol will not be permitted. For more information, visit www.WilsonCenterTickets.com.

Here’s a rundown of all the shows…

Singer-songwriter Travis Shallow has a busy week kicking off the Wilson’s Center’s Drive-In Concert series on Thursday and then dropping his latest single on Friday. Courtesy photo.

Travis Shallow // Classic Rock
June 25, 7:30 p.m.

Kicking off the show this Thursday will be local Americana musician Travis Shallow. It will be his first show back in front of an audience since March—which, in this manner, will be a bit different for Shallow, who is known to interact with fans directly during shows. But it’s better than not playing at all, according to the musician. Music has been Shallow’s career for the last 15 years, and during the shutdown, he’s been forced to do only livestreams on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 6 p.m. on his Facebook page. 

“Having that structure as a way to stay in touch with my listeners has been a lifesaver for my sanity,” he says. “I just did my 22nd episode on Wednesday and I’m still going strong.”

Still, nothing beats playing to the audience face-to … err, OK, car-to-face.

Read more about Shallow’s livestream series and latest single release coming this Friday HERE.

Flashback // Classic Rock
June 26, 7:30 p.m.

Flashback is keeping the classics classic! The five-piece ensemble is bringing back memories OF WHAT YEARS? with their raucous and electric style. Kim Mulvaney, lead vocalist and sax player, details how the band is preparing for the big night.

“For us, the setup is about the same; it’s just preparing to see a parking lot full of cars instead of an audience in chairs, and maybe prepare for car horns instead of applause.”

Mulvaney and the band have been socially distancing and wearing masks during their rehearsals and putting in effect their own safety measures. “We are practicing often to make up for the time we’ve been apart and changing up our setlist to be more classic rock,” Mulvaney tells.

CFCC Merit Scholar Ava Johnson will take the stage with Uptown Easy on Saturday. Courtesy photo

Uptown Easy // Soul
June 27, 7:30 p.m.

On June 27, CFCC Merit Scholar Ava Johnson will take the stage for a special collaboration with eight-piece soul band Uptown Easy. The Wilson Center plans to donate 100 % of its proceeds to The Gift of Education initiative from that night’s event. The entirely donor-supported program collects funds to provide scholarships to Cape Fear Community College students. Since its launch over 15 years ago, the organization has raised $1.3 million and provided scholarships to more than 2,200 students. Over the last decade and a half, more than 4,500 guests have attended this annual fundraising event.

Due to state and local health restrictions, the foundation has partnered with the Wilson Center to put on a special fundraising concert since it cannot host its traditional fundraising breakfast. To support the scholarship fund directly, text “GOE” to 44321. An online portal is also open to donations: cfcc.edu/goe

Massive Grass will round out the Wilson Center series. Courtesy photo.

Massive Grass // Alternative Bluegrass
June 28, 4:30 p.m.

Wrapping up the series will be the five-piece Massive Grass, an alternative bluegrass band, which takes the stage on the afternoon of June 28. They will play a mix of their original tunes plus traditional bluegrass songs.

“[We will also play] songs from other genres that we’ve converted to the bluegrass style thrown into the mix,” says Ken Groce, band manager and bass player. “We love playing fast, high-energy songs, but also like to slow it down every now and then. The crowd can definitely expect a good variety.” 

Groce says the band is looking forward to seeing a crowd again, but also excited to support live music again. They’re most anticipating Travis Shallow’s performance on June 25. “He is an awesome local songwriter and we check him out any chance we get,” Croce adds. “I hear Bob Russell, another local musician, will be joining him for his Drive-In concert as well. The two complement each other perfectly, it always sounds fantastic when they play together.”

 

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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