Q’s With Shawn Krauel, Orlando Amphitheater and Central Florida Fairgounds CEO and President

Courtesy Central Florida Fairgrounds
– Fairgrounds Reimagined
The Central Florida Fairgrounds hosts 20,000 for concerts, but for Road Rave will hold about 500 cars with nearly 2,000 patrons.

The hottest European import is the drive-in concert, which will allow American parking lots and fairgrounds to host socially distanced gigs, just in time for summer. As images of German and Danish drive-in shows spread, they caught the eye of Shawn Krauel, CEO and president of Orlando Amphitheater and the adjacent Central Florida Fairgrounds, who saw an opportunity to bring back live music and help his out-of-work staff.

“We hope it’s going to be a short-term, continuous, back-to-back situation we can do pretty much every weekend,” explains Krauel, who says he’s fielding requests from several major promoters. “We’re hoping that it lasts a little bit, and then hopefully [we] get back to some kind of normalcy.”

Co-produced by Disco Donnie and Rare, Road Rave, the venue’s first drive-in concert, pulls into town June 6, with a lineup topped by electronic artist Carnage – who brought Travis Scott, Mac Miller, Marshmello and more to Orlando Amphitheater for his Rare Festival from 2016 to 2018 – and also featuring Riot Ten, Blunts & Blondes, Nitti Gritti and GRAVEDGR. (Disco Donnie promoted a Houston-area EDM drive-in event on May 29; Carnage held another Road Rave outside of Phoenix on May 30.)

The sold-out gig will host nearly 2,000 fans, each paying from $25 to $35. Vehicles may hold from two to six attendees and will occupy 15-by-25-foot spaces on the grass grounds that cost $15 for general admission and $40 for VIP. Says Krauel: “It wasn’t about the maximum amount of gross. It was about, ‘Hey, how can we do this as safely as possible?’”

Krauel connected with Pollstar to discuss Road Rave’s genesis and what attendees might expect from the drive-in experience.

Courtesy Road Rave
– Road Rave
Carnage tops the bill for Central Florida Fairgrounds drive-in Road Rave in Orlando, Fla., on June 6.

POLLSTAR: How did Road Rave come together?
Shawn Krauel: We had been looking at drive-in movie concepts. When we saw the one in Europe, we had a good idea of like, “Hey, we, as the Fairgrounds, could look at that option.” Carnage reached out to us directly through his management and asked us if we wanted to do it with him. Disco Donnie came to the table because he had been working with them. It’s hopefully not a permanent trend, but something that we can do just to get live music back. This is the safest way we can do it right now.

If a country or a rock artist had reached out to you, would you have gone country or rock?
Yeah. Carnage just happens to be the first one that was ready to pull the trigger and do it. Artists have canceled entire tours; this is their way of looking at an option to at least get together to experience live. You can stream all you want, but that doesn’t replace the live experience.

What’s the incentive for drive-in shows?
It’s not a moneymaking thing for us – it’s definitely not. Basically, the artists are doing this for practically nothing compared to their normal deals, and that almost goes the same for the production guys, other than the labor that obviously you can’t really discount. Now you’re just trying to get your regular labor staff back into play, because they’ve been hurt the most. As long as it doesn’t cost me money to produce – because obviously in this climate I can’t afford to lose money – as long as I can put people to work and be prepared for when we are ready to go [and reopen more broadly], this becomes the new norm. If it is, then I want to be somebody that will try anything. That’s why promoters come to me, because they know if [they’ve] got an idea or want to try something out, what am I giving up, dirt? I don’t have a billion dollar facility that I need crazy stuff for. It’s really dirt.

Will there be concessions?
We’re going to have some food trucks that they can go up to, that they can take back to their car. There will maybe be some people out there on golf carts that can take orders. They’re looking up mobile text-to-order for pickups. The concessions companies are all understanding the whole touchless [payment concept] and that cash could be extinct for a little bit. They’ll all follow the same kind of rules that the restaurants are having to do with masks.

How will it look? Will people tune in on radios?
We’re putting in a full K2 rig and full LED, just as a festival concert experience. We will have delays for the GA that’s farther back. It would look just like a normal festival show in regard to sound – they won’t have any problems hearing it. We looked at the FM-only transmit option and it just got to the point where you had to worry about stuff like delays and technical issues. In order for us to get back to live music the way it should be, the concentration should be on the social distancing aspect, which is what we really focused on.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.