Folksy indie group Mt. Joy was on a 28 date arena tour with The Lumineers in mid-March when the pandemic hit and changed the face of live music. The band was set to headline the House of Blues this fall, which, for obvious reasons, has been canceled. However, Dallasites can still see the up-and-coming group perform when they bring their drive-in tour to Fair Park this Thursday, October 29 with support from buzzy local outfit Kyoto Lo-Fi.
Like many other musicians during the pandemic, drive-in concerts have provided Mt. Joy a much-needed creative outlet and platform to connect with fans after months of isolation. The group played a handful of shows in the Northeast earlier this autumn (they have roots in Philadelphia), but this week’s shows in Dallas and Austin will be their final performances of the year. Unfortunately, the drive-in social distancing model doesn’t work as well when the weather turns cold.
“At first the whole thing seemed pretty foreign,” says lead singer Matt Quinn. “I didn’t know what to expect but truly they’ve been really great … I don’t know about you, but just there’s been such a lack of connection with people because of the pandemic and it just feels really good to bring people together safely and see them, like, having fun and, even from a distance, interacting with each other, whether it’s singing along or whatever it is.”
Quinn says he originally worried that the music wouldn’t translate well to a drive-in format. There has been a learning curve to figuring out how to present music to a distanced crowd. Since the band’s grown accustomed to the unusual setting, Quinn says it reminds him of the tailgating events he’d attend growing up in Philly. It’s not a traditional concert, but it brings people together, and that’s what’s important to the band.
“You just try to keep things moving a little bit more and maybe string together songs that have a little bit longer batches of energy, because people are more spread out and there’s not this sort of, like, frenzy that gets created when people are rubbing shoulders with each other,” he says. “It just feels more scary doing that, because people are so spread out and you kind of can’t read people.”
While the drive-in shows have been a creative lift for the musicians, the pandemic has also presented a fair amount of challenges. There was a long period in the spring when the band had no live performances and couldn’t even meet in person to collaborate. Quinn says he questioned whether he even wanted to be a musician anymore. Those feelings of doubt and anxiety about the music industry, and, on the other hand, feelings of hope and inspiration, have come in waves as the pandemic drags on.
“I think everyone’s kind of going through this, it’s just up and down,” says Quinn. “You have your good days or good weeks and bad weeks.”
The band captured the uncertainty and strangeness of the present moment in its latest single, “New President,” which it threw together while in Chicago for a drive-in show earlier this fall.
“It’s just a vignette or kind of a reaction to this moment, and trying to capture this weird, crazy energy of this election, and really hoping for a change. At least from our perspective, we really are hoping for people to go out and vote, and we’re hoping that we have a new president soon,” he says.
The new song drops on Thursday, Oct. 29 at 11 p.m., and Quinn says the band will likely throw it into its Dallas set that evening. You can purchase tickets for Mt. Joy with Kyoto Lo-Fi starting at $100 (that includes a driver and one passenger) here. The event will be held in Lot 8, which is the southeast corner of the park.