Pre-COVID days of cramped, raucous concerts are extinct for the foreseeable future, but that hasn't deterred artists from conceptualizing safer conduits to connect with their fans. In Miami, local acts have experimented with balcony performances, livestreamed concerts, and virtual block parties.
For Broward native Savannah Cristina, those social-distance alternatives aren't good enough.
On Friday, August 21, Cristina is pulling up to the Spot Wynwood for a drive-in concert.
In front of fans.
Sponsored by Dollaz-N-Dealz Entertainment and Foul Hundreds, the event features Broward act Gr8ness as the opener. Spoken-word poet Just John has been tapped to host.
"I had the idea to do the event because it has been so long since I've been able to get on stage," Cristina tells New Times over the phone. "It was getting to the point where I was like, No. I need to perform. I need to get on stage and perform for my audience, but I don't want to put anyone in harm's way."
February was the last time Cristina performed for a live audience. Earlier this winter, she saw her budding career blossom after a series of stripped-down performances against backdrops of ambient scenery — like soft waves crashing against the shore and light traffic breezing past her singing on a concrete median — went viral on YouTube. (The R&B singer-songwriter even received a stamp of approval from Alicia Keys during a Genius interview.) A self-organized tour landed her in Chicago at a venue filled with eager fans bellowing her lyrics back to her.
"It was my first time being out of state in front of a packed out, sold-out venue and everybody knew my songs," she recalls. "It was very interesting that at the peak of that happening, we entered into this pandemic and had to get creative."
Cristina admits that her team questioned whether people would show up for a drive-in concert amid a global health crisis. But drive-in shows have been picking up steam nationwide as artists struggle to connect with audiences amid the crisis. The idea for this show came from Cristina's own memories of pulling up at the Swap Shop & Drive-In Theatre in Fort Lauderdale with her family.
Unlike the traditional drive-in experience, where patrons tune in to a specific frequency on their car stereo, Cristina's team is setting up a stage and surround-sound speakers throughout the lot.
Fans can expect to sing along to a montage of her classic and new releases — "Self Care," "SoulTies," and "Rebound" — along with the debut of the accompanying music video for "Gold Mine."
"I want people to remember I'm still here. I'm still working," she says. "I'm preparing for my project I'm releasing soon, and I want them to get excited about 'Gold Mine,' my new song dropping Friday."
Despite her team's worries, few tickets to Friday's show remain available. (Stragglers can still purchase tickets for a single car occupied by five or more people, or livestream the concert from home.)
Cristina says the response to the performance will determine whether she takes the show on the road. She is already in talks with venue owners in Broward to export the concept one county to the north.
"I expect for [fans] to feel more connected than they already have. My brand has always been familiar, relatable, and something that you can touch. I don't like to seem unattainable," she says. "I want them to sing, cry, and enjoy. After they leave the show, I want them to remember we're all on this journey together, and my music is for the fans."
Savannah Cristina. 7:30 p.m. Friday, August 21, at the Spot Wynwood, 3201 NW Seventh Ave., Miami. Tickets cost $9.99 to $75 via eventbrite.com.
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