Music returned Saturday night with some dancing in the parking lot at Santa Fe Community College.
One hundred and twelve socially distanced cars’ worth of concertgoers caught Grateful Dead tribute band Detroit Lightning (of Santa Fe) for the first local and state government-approved show since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in March.
“The entire concert industry has been turned on its head. We’re happy to try something new. This is a test run, but we’re happy to have people gather again and listen to music,” said Jamie Lenfestey, director of operations for Santa Fe and Taos for AMP Concerts, which organized the show.
“It’s pretty clear people are desperate to get out again.”
Lenfestey said tickets, which were priced at $55, $88 and $132, went on sale June 13 and sold out by Wednesday. Cars, which were limited to a maximum of six people, each received six parking spots, or 162 square feet of space, and attendees were allowed to tailgate with coolers and picnics outside their vehicles and within their designated spaces. Masks were required to go to the restroom but not in tailgate areas.
Detroit Lightning guitarist Ben Wright said the band normally rehearses in a small shack in drummer Paul Feathericci’s backyard but practiced outside between piñon trees to be safe this time around. As far as the restrictions on the audience, Wright said before the show he wasn’t worried they would impact the experience. “Especially with Grateful Dead music, there is a feedback loop between the energy of the crowd and the energy of the band,” said Wright, who decided to open the concert with an upbeat version of “Eyes of the World.” “It’s hurt to miss that feeling these past few months. It’s been an important reminder of how important experience with the audience is for musicians.”
Lenfestey said Mayor Alan Webber and the New Mexico Tourism Department supported AMP Concerts’ plan for the show before the Governor's Office gave final approval. While AMP Concerts does not have any other shows in Northern New Mexico officially on the schedule, Lenfestey said the nonprofit hopes Saturday’s show will be the first of many this summer. “We’re trying to show a model where we can do a mass gathering safely with drive-in protocols,” Lenfestey said. “Maybe from this event, we can find a path to allowing people [to] go sit on grass in a park.”
Correction: This story has been amended to reflect the following correction. A previous version of this story omitted the fact that the Governor's Office gave final approval for the event.