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Road Rage Drive-In paves way for safe, live music in the Northwest (DMNW Review)

Image description: the crowd of cars facing the stage at Road Rage Drive-In
Credit: Road Rage Drive-In for Detox Nightlife (www.detoxnightlife.com)

It’s no secret that for the past few months, the Pacific Northwest has waited anxiously for the return of live music. Watching states like California and Arizona throw their own socially-distanced outdoor concerts, we held our breath waiting for our turn as sunny weather began to set in.

Finally, after over one full year of a live music drought, Detox Nightlife brought the first installment of Road Rage Drive-In concerts to the Portland International Raceway (PIR) this past weekend. If you weren’t able to attend, or want to relive the two-night event, keep reading for the DMNW experience below.

This event was unlike anything we’d attended before. It was a somewhat surreal blend of festival camping with distanced spots focused around one stage. Ultimately, Road Rage balanced COVID-19 precautions extremely well while capturing the same feeling of live music we know and love.

Stage and event setup

Entering through a back entrance winding around the neighboring Expo Center to limit typical Friday late-afternoon traffic, we were guided through a scenic (albeit littered with abandoned cars central to the charm of the industrial North Portland) drive to security. With four lanes of security and shining sun, there was virtually no wait.

Even Crowd Management Services (CMS) seemed to match our excitement about the event. They greeted us with thanks for attending which gave them an opportunity to work again. It was a truly poignant reminder about how much goes into live music and the staggering number of people who benefit from it.

Once we crossed through the archway of shipping containers adorned with Road Rage promotional banners, tickets were scanned and we were in. One large stage with huge PK Sound speakers surrounded both sides, with rows of cars facing the stage. With 4 tiered sections of parking, cars chose spots within a section on a first come, first serve basis. Since the sun was shining and we were (admittedly) too excited about the concert, we arrived early and set up our spot. Designated by simple parking cones, we pulled into a spot in the front middle of our section about halfway deep in the rows of cars.

We pulled out a seemingly endless number of camp chairs, reminiscing on our favorite memories from shows. Frank Sinatra played quietly on the speakers as cars filled up around us. The surrounding energy and excitement palpably carried throughout the venue.

When the stage floodlights came on and local openers HAL-V & Spacecase came on, a wave of cheers crashed over the crowd. It was a moment of clarity, like every attendee understood how much this event meant after the past year.

COVID-19 safety measures

As the world begins opening up again, we wondered how this event would apply COVID-19 safety measures. Make no mistake: it absolutely set the precedent for responsible outdoor live music events. Nearly everyone respected the mask mandate whenever outside of a vehicle, and CMS regularly walked the grounds to remind patrons. Attendees wore masks at all times except while actively eating or drinking, or when inside a car.

Restrooms, although low in numbers, were clean throughout both days. Hand sanitizer within the portable toilet was always filled and accompanied by a hand washing station outside. A few food trucks scattered throughout the event provided food (but no alcohol) and maintained social distancing in lines.

It’s also worth mentioning that there were no refillable water stations due to COVID-19 precautions. Event management encouraged bringing substantial amounts of sealed water bottles and containers. Because our group contained a strenuous over-planner (me) we didn’t run out of water, but the unseasonably hot sun could be cause for concern.

Thankfully, the first aid station and assistance text number was advertised throughout the event. If any questions or concerns came up, you could call or text the posted number, or visit the first aid tent.

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