Drive-In photo by Lukas Kabon / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images – Marc Rebillet
ON THE COVER Marc Rebillet
“We got this. We got this shit,” 31-year-old Dallas-born, New York-based Marc Rebillet tells Pollstar. Leave it to a musician whose one-man-band shows are mostly improvised to not worry that much about pulling off the first full-fledged drive-in concert tour of 2020 – and, by all accounts, ever.
“Everything feels a little new and a little exciting, and that is just a really beautiful feeling to have when everything right now is so goddamned boring,” Rebillet tells Pollstar of the tour, which just finalized its tour dates to 12 in eight different cities.
The tour is a first of its kind, and unorthodox in just about every way imaginable. The tour’s promoter, HotBox, “has put together some really awesome shit on the fly,” according to Rebillet, including a traveling stage for each venue, where he will be backed by a green screen that is projected to the drive-in movie screens. He’ll be outfitted with a wireless mic and a boom box PA system tuned to the frequency he’s broadcasting to for the viewers’ cars.
“That way I can run around the cars and interact,” says Rebillet, also known as the one and only grooving “Loop Daddy” for his on-the-fly musical creations, which range from funky to sexy to silly, produced largely with the aid of a powerful BOSS loop station.
“I’m going to be placing a huge priority on interactivity, basically. It’s a big part of my shows under normal circumstances, a lot of crowd work, and I get a lot of my song ideas from the audience. I’ll be looking for ways to interact with the people in the parking lot, where that’s possibly a phone number exclusive to that show, maybe a video call, and of course a lot of stuff with horns and blinkers, windshield wiper fluid – there’s a billion and one ways to get creative with this,” he says, adding that he doesn’t want to overthink it too much and potentially kill the spontaneity.
“Outside of that, basically we’re doing everything we can to make it feel as much like a regular show as possible, in terms of energy and intimacy and chaos. Everything we’re doing is in service to that, to feel like you’re not just sitting in your car.”
Róisín Murphy O’Sullivan – Marc Rebillet
The big questions at this time, of course, are those of crowd safety and behavior, with various schools of thought regarding the coronavirus shutdown and personal opinions among fans regarding how cautious to be while in public.
“Our No. 1 priority is safety and responsibility,” Rebillet says right off the bat, leaving no interpretation to what the environment will be like once fans park for the night. “The emphasis is on social distancing, making sure everyone stays in their cars and enjoys their concert from there – whatever else you want to do in your car is entirely your business!”
United Talent Agency represents Rebillet, with co-agents Christian Bernhardt and Adam Ogushwitz, whom Rebillet gives much credit for the hard work of putting together the tour.
“The safety of everyone who is involved in this event – Marc, the fans, the crew, and the theater owners – is our first priority,” adds UTA’s Bernhardt. “We have spent countless hours anticipating any problems and have established a clear set of protocols that meet CDC guidelines and social distancing regulations put forth by state and local jurisdictions. With these rules, everyone can enjoy themselves while knowing that they are in a safe environment.”
Tickets for the show average around $50 each, with packages available for up to four people per car – with HotBox handling execution of the show logistics.
“It was a tremendous challenge, but we welcomed the opportunity to plan the first-ever drive-in concert tour in the U.S.,” UTA’s Ogushwitz adds. “We contacted a number of promoters to see what was possible and decided to go with HotBox as they seemed to be the best- equipped to take on this unprecedented task. Matt Feldberg and Noah Bennet (of HotBox) have joined our crew as creative producer partners. They helped us find and contact the theater owners to propose this concept. With every show we have confirmed, we have learned more about streamlining the entire process.”
European drive-in shows in recent weeks helped prove the concept could work, and the agents and Rebillet ran with it.
“Since traditional touring is currently on pause, we had to find other ways to generate money for our clients, and this idea seemed like an interesting way to present live music in a safe environment,” Bernhardt says. “We also knew that there was an increased appetite for live music considering that most of the world has been under lockdown for weeks, if not months.”
Rebillet said he was on board right away.
Van Corona – Marc Rebillet
“As soon as they brought up the idea to me, I didn’t even have to think,” he says. “It was immediate. Stop everything you’re doing and go as quickly as you can. In under a week and a half we had it announced, it was incredible work.
“It’s also a selfish thing for me,” he adds. “I desperately miss being in front of people and playing in front of people. I’ve been doing the livestreams for years and really enjoy doing them, but it’s a completely different beast being on stage and feeling the immediate feedback from a crowd. This is the closest we can get to that.”
With a variety of different types of virtual tours being rolled out, Rebillet’s will surely serve as an example of what can be done in person while traditional venues remain closed or limited to the point of potentially not being feasible for full touring productions.
“This model can certainly work for other artists, especially for solo artists and acts who don’t require massive production for their shows,” Ogushwitz says. “Outside of the music landscape, we think this model could work well for comedians with lower production needs. We are constantly working on new ideas for our artists. We currently have a number of different projects we are developing that are close to completion, but we are not able to discuss those details quite yet.”
Bernhardt adds, “Marc’s music and performance style made a lot of sense for this type of concert experience. From an economic viewpoint, he puts on a one-man show that doesn’t rely on lots of production (LED, lights, and screens). Also, from an artistic side, his unique blend of comedy and music has engaged a broad audience that is quickly expanding across the U.S.”
As far as pioneering a whole new touring model, Rebillet is quick to note the drive-in tour wasn’t the plan – and still wouldn’t be at any other time.
“I hope people don’t have to book tours like this for too long. Obviously it’s not ideal and I want to be back at venues sweating together,” he says. Still, “It feels nice. I enjoy putting myself in uncomfortable positions. It didn’t really start out that way, but it turned into that. I guess I’m onstage, with no plan, no setlist, I just sort of feel it out for the length of a set. That can be dangerous. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s not so great. At the end of the day the draw is it can be entertaining to watch me try to figure it out, and occasionally land it.”
The tour rollout seems to have paid off.
“We are very pleased with the sales and expect every show to sell out,” Ogushwitz says, adding that a sellout on this tour means between 300 and 500 cars with an average of 2.5 person per vehicle. “We were very careful on determining ticket prices, as we needed to cover overhead costs while not alienating fans who are used to slightly lower ticket prices.”
Shane McCormick – Marc Rebillet
“We feel incredibly fortunate to be working for such a forward-thinking and innovative company,” Bernhardt adds. “Leadership is always encouraging us to explore out-of-the-box ideas and pursue new ways to approach our work. This mentality helps drive our creativity, especially in shifting times like these. UTA is an extremely innovative and entrepreneurial place, which enabled us to quickly pivot to tackle today’s challenges.”
Rebillet, who admits being inspired to the point of “obsession” by improv beatboxing comedian Reggie Watts, moved to New York to make a go of his musical aspirations after being laid off from a desk job in 2017.
He cut his teeth as a performer landing gigs in the tri-state area in his home market of Dallas, where he found he could make enough to pay the bills with local bar residencies and the occasional festival gig. His zany videos, which he often recorded from his apartment while donning a bathrobe, picked up steam on Facebook and YouTube to the point of his audience ballooning well into the 100,000s. With UTA on board for his first proper headlining tour of 2019, he took his touring to the next level, with fall sellouts including at The Independent in San Francisco (two nights), First Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis, the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., (1,200 tickets) and the SWG3 in Glasgow, Scotland.
“Marc had an extremely busy summer planned this year across the U.S. and Europe with sets at almost every major festival, as well as a tour later this year,” Ogushwitz says. “We are working on rescheduling tour dates for 2021 at this point, but in some cases we are looking at bigger venues, as his profile is quickly rising within the music industry.”
Rebillet says while he hopes to venture into other forms of media, potentially acting or recording a full composition album with a full band, he first wants to have that full touring breakout year.
“We had our sights set on the highest path you can get before playing stadiums and that kind of thing, looking at big shows and festivals and that kind of shit,” he says. “I think once this is over, I would love to have that year. I do love touring. If that means it’s 2021, then 2021 it will be. I want to tour heavily and play all over the damn place as much as I can.” The self-managed musician jokes that he doesn’t need a day-to-day manager when “it’s me making stupid shit in my apartment,” but he clearly has the business acumen.
“At this point it’s a choice (to be self-managed),” he says. “I never anticipated it growing to the degree it has, but I don’t see the value add yet where a manager can add 20% to my bottom line, although there are some things I’d love taken off my own plate. I think there may come a point for one when I stretch my wings a little and move into other types of entertainment.”
For the drive-in tour, which kicks off June 6 in Baltimore for two nights and hits Charlotte, Columbus, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Tulsa, Houston, Fort Collins (Colo.) and Fort Worth, Rebillet says he’s not personally worried about unruly fans flaunting the social distance mandates.
“I’m less worried about that than I am just about the shows going well,” he says. “I always have a lot of anxiety before shows, it’s something I’ve never been able to help.
“In terms of being responsible and being safe, HotBox has on multiple occasions assured me that this is their real No. 1 thing. In order for this to work, it needs to work on a health level. There’s no successful tour without that. That is their absolute main concern.
“But on top of that, I trust my audience, I’ve trusted my audience since I started touring to join me on stage for a lot of shows. At the end of the show I will open the floodgates if security is cool with it, with as many as 150 people on stage surrounding me. I’ve never had a problem where someone really fucked something up or something goes wrong.
“I’m just very lucky to have people come to my shows who are kind, enthusiastic and generally good people. I sort of have to put trust in their hands. If you’re going to come to the show, there’s a contract there, not in writing but a social contract between us and the crowd. I think it’s going to be just fine.”
And, he says, normalcy will come back for concert fans, artists and the touring business as a whole, too. “It will. It always does,” he assures. “We got this. We got this shit.”