Katia Faroun | Features Editor
Attending a concert during a pandemic sounds the opposite of safe, but Pittsburgh music lovers have found a way to make it work.
Masked up and in the safety of their cars, Butler County alt-rock fans braced the rain and arrived at the Starlight Drive-In Tuesday night for a different type of show: a concert.
With style and creativity that only the pandemic can inspire, alternative rock band Mt. Joy successfully entertained the crowd, earning responses of applause, cheers and car horns.
The band released its second album, “Rearrange Us,” in early June and had scheduled a tour for the 2020-2021 season. As COVID-19 concerns grew back in March, the group had postponed the final shows of its tour with folk band The Lumineers, and postponed the start of its own tour. After hosting a few virtual concerts at the end of the summer, Mt. Joy launched its drive-in tour with a show in Philadelphia on Aug. 26, and continues to rearrange (pun intended) its shows to be COVID-friendly.
Cars and trucks started filling the outdoor lot near Evans City as soon as the “doors” opened. Attendees dressed in Coachella-style concert attire gathered in small groups in their trunks, on blankets and lawn chairs, armed with buckets of fries and classic concession stand food.
Despite the fall weather, the atmosphere was that of a warm summer night. Pittsburgh-based Kahone Concept took the stage as the sun began to set and warmed up the crowd with a few singles, ending with one of their recent and most popular songs, “Maybe.” Lead guitarist and vocalist Ben Orrvick successfully drew in the crowd with his space buns and memories of a 7th grade date in Butler County.
The rain began to fall just as Mt. Joy walked on stage — but it didn’t dampen the crowd’s spirits. Audience members danced in front of their cars and in the beds of their trucks as the band opened the night with the first track of their debut album, “I’m a Wreck.” Live recordings were streamed on the big screens, providing those parked in the last row with close ups of the band.
Lead singer Matt Quinn’s relaxed presence reflected the carefree atmosphere of the crowd. Commenting on difficult and nonideal circumstances regarding the pandemic, he thanked the attendees for continuing to support artists in this time and for adapting to the situation. He filled gaps in between songs with anecdotes of growing up in Pennsylvania and the fact that he only brought one sweatshirt with him on tour.
Heavy synth and guitar solos characterized the smooth transitions between each song. Long builds created explosive entrances into their hits “Astrovan” and “Dirty Love,” with keyboardist Jackie Miclau and guitarist Sam Cooper earning the spotlight. Newer songs like “Let Loose” and “Strangers” pulled attendees from the shelter of their trunks and umbrellas to dance in the rain and, well, let loose.
Before moving into the first-album track “Sheep,” Quinn reminded the crowd of the importance of voting, especially with the upcoming election and on the night of the first Presidential Debate.
As the night came to a close, the sound of steady rainfall filled the brief silence after each song. The band ended their set with a mashup of their song “Julia” along with “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Clint Eastwood.”
Mt. Joy left the stage to cheers and honking from the crowd, before returning to play their hit single “Silver Lining” during the encore. Even over the sound of the music and the rain, the crowd could be heard shouting along.
With the continuation of the pandemic and no sure sight of normalcy on the horizon, Mt. Joy continues to release revised tour schedules in order to safely accommodate fans during their shows. But despite the difficulties that are thematic of quarantine and isolation, the artists vocalized their stronger appreciation for music and the delight that comes with enjoying music as a community.
The pandemic can put a halt to the majority of activities, but leave it to music lovers to find loopholes within social distancing and sanitization in order to put on a good show.