Aarhus, Denmark (May 5, 2020)—If there was smoke rolling across the stage at Mads Langer‘s latest concert, it was probably car exhaust. While the coronavirus has brought the concert business to a standstill worldwide, the city of Aarhus is trying something different. The second-largest city in Denmark teamed with promoter Front of House for an experimental event series in which audiences can see a show while socially distancing in their cars, listening to the concert via their car stereos. Danish singer-songwriter Langer kicked off the run, rocking a parking lot instead of a packed house.
Held at P-Scenen, a new live event venue in one of the city’s public parks, the series’ debut show was emceed by Mayor Jacob Bundsgaard, who noted, “It is an Aarhusian world premiere to hold a concert in this way.” He asked the crowd to applaud the concert’s event staff, noting, “I think we should give applause or a honk—or no, you must not honk, I was told—to those who have made this arrangement work.”
There are several other rules that have to be followed at P-Scenen in addition to “no honking,” many of which are aimed at reducing the potential spread of infection. All attendees have to stay in their vehicles and are not allowed to open their car doors. Only left-side windows may be rolled down, and drivers have to turn off their engines once they are in their designated parking spot. Up to five people are allowed in each vehicle and the city strongly recommends that concertgoers share their vehicle only with others “in your circle of infection.”
Langer took the stage joking that “I’ve played many concerts in my life, but this is really ‘a first time.’” It was likely a first for everyone involved. No P.A. was set up for the event, though LED screens graced the stage to provide a better experience for fans in the cheap seats, er, parking spots.
There was one new technology employed for the concert, however—the increasingly ubiquitous Zoom video conferencing app. At most concerts, audience members scream out comments or requests to the band, but for Langer’s show, the crowd communicated via Zoom, which was visible on one of the video screens and on smartphones and tablets in concertgoers’ cars.
While it was an unusual concert, at least one tradition was upheld. For the final song, “Fact-Fiction,” Langer spontaneously invited an audience member, Signe Nygaard, who had requested the track via Zoom, to come up on stage and dance while he played. Nygaard got out of her car and ran up in her socks.
Claus Bech, director of the Aarhus City Association, explained the rationale behind the event series to local TV station TV2 East July: “We go into it because the cultural houses and the urban spaces are standing still. We have been working with Front of House for many years. We feel it is very important to support this because it makes the artists happy and at the same time gives citizens a community in the midst of this chaotic situation we are in.”
Other upcoming events at P-Scenen include a music quiz and a screening of Star Wars.