Move over, Mayo Park — Rochester's music department is moving to the car park.

Riverside Concerts (the City of Rochester’s music department) will present "Car Park Concerts" on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m., beginning July 15 and running through Aug. 26, for a total of seven concerts.

Each drive-in concert will take place in the parking lot of 125 LIVE (125 Elton Hills Drive NW, Rochester). Musicians will play from the patio, while ticketed cars listen over FM radio, using a short-range broadcast frequency to be announced at each show.

While these events are free, attendance is by reservation only. Attendees must call the Riverside Concerts office (507-328-2200) one week before each concert to request an email reservation to print out for the next show.

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The concerts will be much smaller than the Down By the Riverside and the forWARD concert series, which have been canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“There was some holding out hope for a traditional park gathering,” said Chris Alcott, the assistant general manager for Riverside Concerts. “By the time July is around, it might be that we could — but it’s looking slim.”

Only 60 cars can fit in the 125 LIVE parking lot, said Steven Schmidt, the Riverside Concerts general manager, allowing for 6 feet of space between each vehicle.

But fear not: Anyone who can’t listen from the parking lot can watch livestreams of the concerts from the music department’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

The city music department has been looking for new ways to get the tunes out there in the advent of COVID-19, Schmidt said. Streaming the concerts will, he said, increase the potential audience for each musical act.

“It’s not going to be just 60 cars,” he said. “It could potentially be a worldwide audience for these people.”

Related: The year in music: 2019's Rochester record roundup

'We wanted to get money in their pockets'

The musicians selected and paid to play the Car Park Concerts were all initially planned as opening acts for Down By the Riverside or headliners for forWARD concerts.

“As an artistic director, it was my strategy to make good on the commitments made to artists for this summer,” Schmidt said.

A free-will offering, collected as cars exit the lot, will also go toward payment for the musicians.

With funky alt-rockers Karate Chop, Silence opening and Milwaukee-based folk duo Dead Horses ending the series, each night will have a dramatically different feel.

“It’s somewhat in our traditional fashion of being all over the place,” Alcott said.

Offering a broad spectrum of artists will hopefully attract a similarly wide section of Rochester listeners.

Under the Pavilion.jpg
Under the Pavilion.jpg

There are additional bonuses with this series’ lineup — the ability to support up-and-coming musical acts.

“All of these artists have some original material to offer,” Schmidt said. “So they’re not all cover bands. And a lot of them — like, half of them — all of their material is original. It’s really important for a city arts department to be able to support local creatives — artists who are creating new art.”

Cover bands are great, he said, because they guarantee that everyone listening will be able to “tap their toes to songs that are familiar.”

“But you know, every one of those cover songs was at one time a brand-new song that no one had ever heard before,” Schmidt said. “While I don’t know if any of these songs we’re going to hear … is going to become a platinum record, you never know.”

Car Park Concerts is presented in association with Think Bank, the City of Rochester, 125 LIVE, Rochester Parks and Rec, and the Rochester Rec Center.

Debbie Anthony
Debbie Anthony


July 15: Karate Chop, Silence (Reservations available July 9)

July 22: Under the Pavilion (Reservations available July 16)

July 29: Good Morning Bedlam (Reservations available July 23)

Aug. 5: Debbie Anthony (Reservations available July 30)

Aug. 12: General B & the Wiz (Reservations available Aug. 6)

Aug. 19: Hair of the Dog (Reservations available Aug. 13)

Aug. 26: Dead Horses (Reservations available Aug. 20)

Here are RIverside Concerts' safety guidelines for the series:

  • Do not arrive at the concert area any earlier than 30-minutes prior to the start time (any cars waiting to gain access will be asked to leave and come back).
  • Only vehicles displaying a valid reservation will be admitted to the event.
  • Each household should be in a separate car.
  • Carpooling does not comply with social distancing guidelines. People with COVID- 19 symptoms (cough, fever, shortness of breath, etc.) should not attend.
  • Attendees should remain in their cars.
  • No reserved spots. Parking attendants will direct your vehicle to an available space.
  • Cars will be parked with one empty space between them to maintain a minimum safe distance of 6 feet.
  • There should be no passing of objects or physical contact between vehicles.
  • Bathrooms facilities will not be provided for the public (the concerts will last about an hour).
  • Alcoholic beverages are not permitted