It was a Saturday evening in Denton’s East End neighborhood, and the staff of Armadillo Ale Works was setting up a music stage in the bar's parking lot.
Craft beer was on display, and the band for the night, Felt & Fur, ran a soundcheck. Showgoers arrived in their cars for the outdoor, drive-in concert, and members of the staff checked their tickets as they arrived. As they parked, some people chose to stay in their vehicles, while others pulled out lawn chairs (and put on their face masks), setting up next to their parking spaces. Within minutes, the lot was filled with socially distanced music fans.
Since the shutdown in March, live music has been difficult, if not impossible to stage while following government guidelines. And since Gov. Greg Abbott's June 26 order for Texas bars to close their doors, many venues have had to find creative ways to keep their businesses running.
Enter Armadillo Ale Works, a craft brewery just east of the Denton square, which opened a little more than two years ago. Teaming up with Boca 31, a Latin restaurant sharing the parking lot, Armadillo Ale Works created the Last Ditch Drive-In Concert Series, a weekly local music showcase, featuring some of Denton’s finest artists.
The sound of Felt & Fur's music filled the air with electronic rock as patrons camped out, tailgating across the large parking lot. The band's driving beat and beautifully haunting vocals carried far enough to be heard clearly from yards away, and drew attention from passersby, who stopped by to enjoy the show.
While there was no crowding at the front of the stage, and no groups of more than 10 people together, it was a familiar and refreshing scene. Live local music has been undoubtedly missed, especially in Denton, which prides itself on being a live music destination.
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While guests could not have a beer at a table inside, and all of the action was in the parking lot, Armadillo Ale Works and Boca 31 successfully serviced guests outdoors, selling empanadas and beer.
Tickets for the concerts are sold online and range from $10-$60 for various parking spaces. Most spots were filled last weekend.
Guests readily complied with the guidelines set by the venue, wearing masks and maintaining social distance throughout the show. Whether sitting inside their cars or in fold-out chairs in the parking lot, guests seemed settled in their own spaces.
Given the current precarious state of live music in particular, the concert series at Armadillo Ale is a creative alternative to the norm. And with a new show each week, it serves as a reminder that community, weekends and, of course, live music, can still give us something to look forward to in otherwise strange times.