In an outdoor car park in Sydney’s Tempe, right under the temporarily quiet flight path, Casey Donovan belts out a cover of David Bowie’s Heroes dedicated to the pandemic’s essential workers. In lieu of applause, the audience – a grid of 50 or so sedans and SUVs – respond with blaring horns, flashing high-beams, and waving windscreen wipers.
In what organisers billed as “Australia’s first drive-in concert”, Donovan, who hadn’t performed live onstage since her run in Chicago: the Musical was shut down by coronavirus restrictions in mid-March, sang for just over half an hour. She bantered with car passengers via Zoom, and quipped about NRMA’s response time if car batteries – amid the endless blinking headlights and stereos channelling the onstage noise through their FM bandwidth – ran flat.
“It was bizarre, but bizarrely good,” says Donovan. “I lost a lot of work over the last couple of months, so I’m on a high. It was nice to be out of the house and performing again.”
Organised by Drive-In Entertainment Australia – a newly formed subsidiary of events company Action Reaction Entertainment, which before the pandemic focused on “brand activations and corporate events” – the free gig was the first local demonstration of a concept that’s found favour in the US and Europe in recent weeks. The company has official dates planned for NSW in July, with Victoria and other states to follow.