C ue the cow bells and car horns: Seminal rock band Blue Oyster Cult is headed to New Hampshire to help launch a larger-scale drive-in concert series at Cheshire Fairgrounds in Swanzey.
The band, best known for the hits “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Godzilla,” and “Burnin’ For You,” has teamed up with local concert promoter M.E. Productions for a return to the spotlight at 8 p.m. Saturday. (Being that this is an open-air series, keep an eye on www.drive-in-live.com for possible rain date announcements.)
Expect the sound, lights and video spectacle of a regular concert experience, coupled with a new-school slate of safety protocols.
“We wanted to find a way to bring back live music with national-level artists to New Hampshire, but we also needed to make sure we were providing a safe environment for all attendees, staff and artists,” said co-organizer Mike Chadinha. “With permission from the town of Swanzey, we are ecstatic to be able to bring live events to Cheshire Fairgrounds during these challenging times.”
The Swanzey concert, with a capacity for 456 vehicles in double spaces, will mark the first time members of Blue Oyster Cult (BOC to fans) have seen one another in person since February. Like countless other bands in a hard-hit entertainment industry, BOC halted touring in March amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
What was that like for a band that has spent decades honing its road-warrior mentality?
“Well, the word for it is called ‘unemployed,’” said lead singer Eric Bloom, pausing for a self-deprecating laugh in a telephone interview from his Long Island home. “It’s the same for everyone else. I mean nobody likes sitting around the house. You want to get out, you want to work and interact with other people, so we are in the same boat as most of the rest of America.”
We had a big tour with Deep Purple planned for October and it just got pushed a couple of days into 2021,” Bloom said. “Things keep changing, and we change with it.”
BOC bandmates (Bloom, Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser, Richie Castellano, Danny Miranda and Jules Radino) completed work remotely from their home studios on a new album, “The Symbol Remains,” which will be released in October on streaming platforms and on CD and vinyl. It has 14 new tracks and is the band’s first studio album since 2001’s “Curse of the Hidden Mirror.”
Still, BOC plans to focus on its classics, what Bloom calls the “tried-and-true” tunes, for the Swanzey show. That’s partly because the band hasn’t been able to get together to practice and hone live performance of the new material. But it’s also fitting that this reintroduction into the rock arena feels like watching the music world shrug back into a well-worn guitar strap.
Seth McNally, the director of the Drive-In Live series, said plans are to run shows through Oct. 10, including an opening show Friday night with Echoes of Floyd, a Pink Floyd tribute band that plays the “Dark Side of the Moon” album in an intergalactic light and multi-media show, and a July 25 show with Aaron Lewis of the rock band Staind, which has also had to postpone high-profile tour dates this summer.
For his part, Bloom said this is a welcome return to New Hampshire, a place where he earned an appreciation for the outdoors at summer camp in Peterborough in the 1950s. He often includes the “Mount Monadnock song,” which camp counselors taught kids to sing on hikes up the mountain, in concerts he does in the Granite State.
“I’m gonna make everyone sing the Mount Monadnock song when I get there,” he said, launching into a soft rendition of the sing-song ode to a New Hampshire landmark.
“People need music now more than ever,” McNally said. “We are beyond thrilled that rock icons Blue Oyster Cult will grace the stage for our inaugural weekend.”
What to expect
Here’s how the BOC drive-in concert will work: Tickets range from $60 to $159 per medium-sized SUV or truck, with a maximum of up to five occupants in each.
The show will take place in the south parking lot of the fairgrounds, 247 Monadnock Highway. Though the smallest section closest to the stage is sold out, tickets remain for two other areas.
Now, for some of the do’s and don’t’s; Do feel free to bring binoculars, lawn chairs, coolers, canned drinks and precooked food. Don’t bring glass containers, pets, fireworks or grills. Tailgating or forming out-of-vehicle clusters is not permitted. Wear masks if heading to the restrooms.
Go to www.drive-in-live.com for more information.