The Time I Cried At A Drive-In Show

Photo courtesy of Dana Gorab
I’ve lost track of the number of shows that have been missed out on due to these (sigh) unprecedented times we’re all living through. I can’t remember which have been rescheduled, and re-rescheduled and canceled altogether. I remember the first one. It would’ve been Oso Oso on March 15 (2020), right around the time everyone collectively realized that this was getting serious. A handful of days before, right as I texted the friend I was supposed to go with to see if he still wanted to, New York announced a ban on events of over 500 people. So that one was the first to bite the dust. And many, many, many more followed.

Not to sound like a melodramatic 20-something, but I’m pretty positive that live music is the best thing that exists in this world, and if you asked me a year ago, I would have told you there was no way I could live without it. From basement shows to stadiums, I spent many years being at probably at least one show a week. I’ve traveled all over the country for live music and I do believe it is one of the most pure, wholesome and good things this world has to offer.

About five months into the live music dry spell that became life-during-COVID, after live streams had long become old news, The Front Bottoms announced a drive-in show at Monmouth Park Racetrack. Within minutes I had a car of friends set on going, and though I was positive it was going to be a strange show, it was still a show. A real show. And I was thrilled.

On a warm night at the end of August, in the home stretch of a summer that didn’t really feel like summer at all, we sat in the parking lot of a racetrack, surrounded by cars staggered out like we were pieces on a checkers board, ready to see a show. My three friends and I parked ourselves atop my friends’ SUV, two of us on the hood, two of us on the roof - masks on, pool floats as pillows, clutching boxes of Girl Scout cookies and Diet Cokes, waiting to sing our hearts out.

It was golden hour when the show began. By the end, the moon was shining perfectly above the stage. The sea of cars honked their horns after each song. People were dancing on top of their cars and screaming the lyrics at the top of their lungs. It was wholesome. It was perfect.

There were a ton of lines in their songs that hit in a new way hearing them from the roof of a car in the midst of a pandemic. Like “Whatever I did for you last year I cannot do again” and the entirety of their song titled “Cough It Out” and (of course) “I miss the way things used to be”. Perhaps my favorite, though, was when they were playing “Far Drive” and sang the lyric “Being in a car with people you love is always a good time” and then paused, laughed, and said “A car! With people you love! Look, it all makes sense now!” as the sea of cars full of people who loved each other cheered back at them.

During the end of the show, it started raining pretty hard. Most people ran into their cars, but I stayed sitting on the roof of my friends’ trusty Lexus and thought about all the times getting caught in the rain at a show just made it all the better. At one point I turned around and saw a friend who I pretty consistently would bump into at shows in the city sitting on a car a few rows back. We waved to each other, and I got a text from her saying she was glad we were somehow able to “bump into” each other that night, too.

You can lose yourself at a show in a way you can’t many other places. There is nothing quite like the cathartic yelling of lyrics, the feeling of comradery with the people you’re surrounded by, the ringing in your ears, all of it. It’s so special; it’s something I love so dearly, and it’s something I miss so much. I don’t remember a specific moment of crying at that show, but I definitely did, as I have at plenty of shows in the past, and as I will again, one of these days.

- Dana Gorab, photographer