Honk for applause: What it was like seeing Andrew McMahon’s socially distanced drive-in concert
Last Friday, as the sun set over a parking lot in Southern California, singer-songwriter Andrew McMahon played the entirety of Everything in Transit, the debut album from his former nom de rock Jack’s Mannequin. This was the first of a three-night special drive-in concert series in Anaheim at the City National.
Traditional concerts feel like a relic of the past at the moment, so being at a drive-in show felt a little strange at first. But everything, thankfully, felt extremely safe as all the cars were socially distanced and it was an entirely contactless experience. The venue had all the bases covered: concessions, merch, and even the queue for the restroom were all done via app, which was super impressive. Yet, the nature of a pre-pandemic McMahon show was so high-energy and community-based that dancing and singing your heart out, even for the shyer among us, was inevitable and joyous. Being out in the open and spaced apart initially seemed like it might change that energy, or even be a little awkward, for both the crowd and the band.
Any sense of strangeness melted away the moment the breezy seagull and traffic sound samples of the opening track, “Holiday from Real,” kicked in. The crowd sang along immediately, and a huge smile flashed across McMahon’s face — this was going to work.
The concert marked the 15th anniversary of Everything in Transit, and McMahon and his band began the concert by playing it from start to finish. The album itself is a memoir of sorts and reveals a past version of McMahon and his experiences coming of age in SoCal. Watching him perform this particular album in the place that inspired it hit differently, especially now. As his powerhouse vocals and catchy melodies filled the outdoor venue, the audience was left with an uplifting sense of nostalgia. McMahon concluded the concert with a handful of popular songs from his other bands, Andrew McMahon in The Wilderness and Something Corporate — including the incredibly appropriate “I Woke up in a Car.” Socially distanced cars honked their horns in lieu of a standing ovation.
The overall experience safely provided a small sense of normalcy for fans while simultaneously delivering a memorable show. That’s the power of McMahon’s music — even during a socially distanced drive-in concert he was able to bring people together.
For more upcoming concerts in Anaheim at the City National, visit http://www.driveinoc.com/.