Of all the industries struggling this year due to COVID-19, perhaps none has been brought to such a grinding halt in quite as painful a manner as live events. There's no work-around, no takeout option, no curbside pick-up for that concert you had tickets for last month, and let's be honest, watching a livestream just isn't the same.
This Saturday, however, the folks at Axelrad aim to bring some semblance of normal back with a drive-in-style rooftop concert featuring local bands Flower Graves and El Lago. According to a press release, the show will also be a test run, as Axelrad, the beating heart of Midtown’s live music scene, hopes to continue creating live drive-in events for as long as necessary. If that's not already enough of a reason to rock out (the venue does ask patrons to get their groove on from the inside of their vehicles, wear face coverings, and follow social distancing recommendations), a portion of the profits from the pay-what-you-can show will benefit the Houston Arts Alliance and the Houston Music Foundation, a new nonprofit supporting musicians during the pandemic.
We spoke with Mikey Drag, lead singer of headliner Flower Graves, about what it’s like preparing for a drive-in show and how the pandemic has affected the group's music career.
After what was arguably your biggest year to date in 2019, how has COVID-19 impacted your progression as a band in 2020?
COVID-19's impact affected us early on with the cancellation of SXSW 2020. We had a busy schedule lined up for SXSW, along with plans with a West Coast tour and multiple festivals we had been talking to.
If these were normal circumstances, how would you describe the energy at a typical Flower Graves show?
I like to think the energy at shows is intriguing, upbeat, and mystic.
Speaking of mystic, you described your music as psych-rock with added elements of mysticism and space. Can you explain that a little further?
"Psych-Rock" is the best we could possibly label our music; mysticism and space could describe the other influences that you might be able to hear in our music. We definitely started off with the intention of being a straight forward psych-rock band, but our sound has evolved and continues to morph.
What is your approach when preparing for this type of show in comparison to a traditional venue?
For this show at Axelrad, we definitely went through an array of different emotions, but were ultimately excited. We've been practicing social distancing at our rehearsals, along with wearing our face masks, so preparing has been a different approach compared to shows in the past.
How do you see coronavirus affecting the live music experience in both the near and long term?
It's so hard to make a prediction on the future of live music, especially with how news and protocols about COVID-19 keep changing and evolving practically every day, but this industry is always willing to adapt. Drive-in concerts and live-streams are such a great concept, and [we're] glad to see them happening.
Beyond the upcoming drive-in show at Axelrad, what can fans expect from Flower Graves this year?
We will be releasing a new single and music video before the end of June, along with another single later this summer. We’re hoping to plan a tour for the end of this year, depending on developments of COVID-19; fingers crossed.
May 23. Pay-what-you-can. Axelrad, 1517 Alabama St. More info and tickets at axelradbeergarden.com.