Metro Detroit concert venues adapt to cope with COVID-19 losses

Posted at 4:16 AM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 06:58:48-04

(WXYZ) — It's no secret the pandemic has pressed pause in many ways on the live music scene in metro Detroit, and around the country; leading to shuttered venues and massive amounts of lost revenue.

But like anything else, sometimes with hardship comes innovation, and that's exactly how a small independent venue in Lake Orion is approaching what most would agree, is a terrible time for the music industry.

“What we’ve been doing during the whole shut down is we’ve been bringing artists in to the empty venue and filming them doing a whole regular length concert," said 20 Front Street's managing partner and book manager Kevin Bessert.

Watching the final, edited product on the venue's YouTube channel, it almost feels like you're sitting in the front row of an intimate set; and that's exactly what they intended.

New concerts premier every Thursday. They're free, but Bessert said they've still found a way to bring in money.

“There’s a text to give number that appears throughout the show you’ll see and it allows people to donate to the show that goes to 20 Front Street and the artists," he said.

When the weather was warmer, Bessert said they got creative fast; like hosting "vertical concerts" at the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester, allowing people to enjoy live music from separate, socially distant balconies.

Other music venues around metro Detroit have adapted their physical space during the pandemic. This summer, DTE Energy Music Theater in Clarkston used its parking lot for Jurassic Quest and next month, the space will transform again for the drive-thru "Magic of Lights" experience.

And in Pontiac, The Crofoot saw big success with drive-in concerts. However owner Daniel McGowan told us via email that out of an abundance of caution for COVID-19, given recent case spikes in the area, this weekend's drive-ins are postponed.

Larger venues like Saint Andrew's Hall and The Fillmore in Detroit declined to speak with us for this story. Both have conducted Facebook live events with bands and artists but don't have actual live concerts booked until the spring.

20 Front Street, which is allowed to open with limited capacity, is holding off on letting fans back in person yet due to overhead costs for such a small space.

“Until we can get back to a point where we can put a few more people in the room, we kind of think this is our best option for now. But we’re hopeful that pretty soon we’ll be able to start letting a small audience in," Bessert said.

In the meantime, 20 Front Street is participating in a documentary about the pandemic's impact on independent music venues.

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