With Michigan performance venues stilled closed to the public because of COVID-19 health measures, Lake Michigan College’s Mendel Center has found an innovative, and safe way to bring fans back to the Benton Harbor campus.
The Drive-In Live! concert series happens in the vast parking lots surrounding the Mendel Center, an ideal space for music fans, performers and Mendel Center staff to socially distance while gathering for an evening of live musical performances.
Each vehicle is issued two parking spaces, one in which to park and for tailgating. An FM radio signal provides concert audio, and with the aide of a large projection screen that shows all the action on stage, any parking space in the lot becomes the ideal seat.
“It is a phenomenal feeling to welcome artists and music fans back to the Mendel Center,” Mendel Center Executive Director Mike Nadolski said. “With almost all of the usual summertime activities in the region cancelled due to the pandemic, the Drive-in Live! concerts fill a void and create a sense of connection in our community that has been missing during these challenging times.”
New for the September performances is a revised ticket pricing structure of $10 per person, up to six people per vehicle.
“Concert goer feedback following the two August shows revealed that people are more comfortable attending these shows with their immediate household. In many cases, that means fewer than three people,” stated Mainstage Director Grace Kelmer. “The new pricing of $10 per person, up to 6 people per vehicle, is more appropriate for those who choose to attend solo or with just one or two other people.”
The series, which focuses on local and regional performers, also provides a welcome gig to musicians who have not been able to take the stage in what is typically their busiest season of the year.
“While fans certainly have missed live music, it is artists who have had the rug pulled out from under them in terms of their livelihoods,” Nadolski said. “We wanted to use this series as an opportunity for these talented performers to get back to what they do best.”
In addition to the music, each concert features trivia contests and prize giveaways between acts. Beer, wine, and soft drink purchases can be made online by cell phone and are delivered directly to each personal tailgate zone.
While music and fun may be center stage during these events, the focus of LMC’s Mendel Center staff remains on the health and safety of everyone involved.
“The well-being of everyone is our first priority,” Nadolski said. “We encourage patrons to stay within their assigned parking and tailgate spaces. Anyone leaving that designated space is required to wear a mask.”
There are currently two more Drive-In Live! concerts scheduled in September. Gates open at 5 p.m. with music scheduled for a 6 p.m. start. Tickets are $10 per person, up to 6 people per vehicle, available at www.TheMendelCenter.com.
Saturday, Sept. 19
- Siusan O’Rourke & Zig Zeitler: This award-winning husband-and-wife duo will share their own branding of Americana roots music; 6 p.m.
- Sankofa: A Benton Harbor-based group that plays an eclectic mix of old and new soul, funk, jazz, R&B and hip hop; 7 p.m.
- The Big Payback: An award-winning jazz-rock band featuring the soulful vocals of Leah Isabel Tirado and a smoking horn section; 8 p.m.
This concert is supported by the Arts Midwest Touring Fund, a program of Arts Midwest that is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional contributions from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Crane Group.
Sunday, Sept. 27
- Mike Talbot: A master vocalist, guitarist, and pianist, as well as a prolific and innovative songwriter, Talbot’s performance history, spans three decades, and includes a wide range of gigs, from local haunts to headlining concerts; 6 p.m.
- John Latini: New York native and longtime Michigan resident John Latini is a three-time Detroit Blues Champion; 7 p.m.
- Alex & Erin: Alex Holycross (The Native Howl) and Erin Zindle (Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds) have joined forces for a sound that splices Alex’s heavier bluegrass/metal style with Erin’s sultry songwriter/world music influences; 8 p.m.
Mendel Center 2020-21 season sponsors
Stage Side: The Boulevard Inn & Bistro, Honor Credit Union, The Inn at Harbor Shores, Kruggel Lawton CPA, Meijer, The Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council, Spectrum Health Lakeland, TCF Bank, TPC Technologies.
Platinum: Berrien Community Foundation, Pier 33
Gold: Beaudoin Electrical Construction, Inc., Hanson Group, Horizon Bank, Metzger Insurance Agency, and Silver Beach Pizza.
About The Mendel Center
The Mendel Center raised the curtain on its first Mainstage season performance in the fall of 1992. Since that time, it has presented Mainstage season performances to more than half a million patrons in the 1,559-seat Mendel Center Mainstage Theatre. Newly renovated Grand Upton Hall, first opened in 1979, is a 14,400-square-foot venue serving the community as the host site for meetings, banquets, trade shows, weddings, and other celebrations. The 234-seat Hanson Theatre is home to the Lake Michigan College Visual & Performing Arts Departments as well as a variety of Mendel Center and community events.