By DONNA BALANCIA
Vincenzo Giammanco, founder and CEO of CBF Productions is bringing back the drive-in, only this time around it’s musicians on the big screen and not movies.
Giammanco and his team are known for California Beer Festival and other musical events, but they converted the live event business to adhere to the 6-feet and social distancing rules and Concerts In Your Car was born. The drive-in revolutionized the movie business and now Third Eye Blind, Fishbone, Fitz and the Tantrums and Sublime with Rome are among those performers who believe Concerts In Your Car could do the same for the music business.
It’s a unique setup: The performers play on a stage that’s in-the-round to a sea of automobiles; a 360-degree experience with large LED screens above so all concert goers in cars, whether close up or further back can have a great experience.
We caught up with Giammanco for a Q and A.
California Rocker: What gave you the idea for drive-in concerts?
Vincenzo Giammanco: To be completely honest it was a ‘Hail Mary’ kind of situation. My company has been around for 12 years. We normally produce 12 large-scale concert festivals a year up and down the state of California. We’re based out of Ventura. In March I had to furlough everybody, which was hard, because we were a thriving business in 2019 and had big plans for 2020, but we got hit with this horrible situation. After we had to furlough everybody, me and my wife were driving around and we went past the parking lot at the Fairgrounds. We thought why don’t we do a drive-in concert or celebration for the graduates of 2020. It started like that. It was like a freight train with everybody jumping on board. All of our vendors and people we work said they like the idea, we received a PPP loan from the government and brought everybody back. It’s evolving and changing every day.
CR: How has the drive-in concert space been received so far?
VG: It’s interesting. When you say ‘Concerts in your Car – I don’t know what people think. They’re not getting the image we’re providing. When we did this, we thought the experience for the fan has to be over the top. It’s already a different experience we’re recreating what this is, if they don’t have a good time we can get them once but they won’t come back. You can plan and try to figure out different things but until you have people there you don’t know. So far we’ve had 40,000 people come through the venue since we’ve opened. So far, people love it. What we’re doing that’s unique is the full massive stage, ground support, it’s almost like a Coachella style stage, it’s in the center of the venue and we park cars 360 degrees around. By doing that it gives everybody an amazing view. There’s an unobstructed view. Above the stage we have four large LED screens. They’re playing in the round. They’re loving the enterainment outlet and the creative outlet and getting out and They’re not worrying about all the negativity in the news.
CR: How did you get involved in the concert business?
VG: I went to film school, I’m a film major. When I was going through school decided I wanted to shoot and create country music videos. I went and got an internship with the local country station, which is 100.7 KHAY I was there for two days and ended up on the morning show. I ended up producing the morning show and was on the morning show for six years, then the economy crashed in 2009. I was the first one fired because they didn’t need a three-person morning show.
At that point I didn’t have anything to lose and wasn’t married and didn’t have any kids. I said, “I want to do a beer festival” and this was before the craft beer movement happened. We started the California Beer Festival in 2009 in Ventura. We didn’t know if anyone would show up or if it was going to be successful, we ended up selling out with 2500 people and we turned people away a thousand at the door. But something was born that day. People had a great experience. So then, fast-forward to today, we produce 12 large-scale music festivals a year up and down the state, as I mentioned.
Interestingly, Concerts in Your Car reminds me of when we started the California Beer Festival because it was during a recession and we’re trying something and there’s this “If you build it they will come aspect. CBF also has established a relationship with Rubicon Theater, which will be collaborating on productions, and additional concerts feature Sublime with Rome and Fitz and the Tantrums. We’re getting phone calls from people who want to be part of this historic thing. It’s been refreshing to have the teamwork environment to base something off of.
Listen to the full interview on the California Rocker Soundcloud channel.