Northlands announces start to 2021 schedule

  • Northlands, formerly Drive-In Live, announced the first three shows of the 2021 concert schedule with Twiddle, Smith & Myers (of Shinedown) and Pink Talking Fish & Neighbor to take the stage in May. Courtesy photo—

  • Northlands, formerly Drive-In Live, announced the first three shows of the 2021 concert schedule with Twiddle (above), Smith & Myers of Shinedown (top) and Pink Talking Fish & Neighbor to take the stage in May. Photos by Eric Hemphill Photography

  • Northlands, formerly Drive-In Live, will look different this year with a bigger stage, improved lighting and no cars. Photo by Eric Hemphill Photography

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/19/2021 1:01:46 PM

Drive-In Live was created last summer to give music fans and bands the opportunity for live music at a time when the schedule of in-person concerts in the region had been wiped out due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mike Chadinha and Seth McNally of M.E. Productions saw it as way to provide something for both starving music enthusiasts and bands who had seen their livelihood taken away. At the time, the thought was it would be a one year thing. But as it became increasingly more clear that in-person concerts would not be able to return in its traditional capacity in 2021, Chadinha said they decided it was time to step it up.

The concert series at the Cheshire Fairgrounds has been reinvented with a new name, Northlands, and will have a new look and feel when it returns on May 14.

“We just want to keep live music going,” Chadinha said, who serves as Northlands director of operations.

This week, Northlands announced four shows to the schedule, which will run from mid-May through the end of September.

The season opening weekend features Twiddle, which played a pair of shows to sold out crowds at the venue last year, on Friday, May 14, and Smith & Myers (of Shinedown) will perform on May 15. Pink Talking Fish & Neighbor will take the stage on May 21, with all three performances beginning at 6:30 p.m. with gates opening at 5 p.m. Tickets will go on sale on Friday, March 19 at 10 a.m. Northlands also announced Pigeons Playing Ping Pong on July 16.

While permitted to host three shows a week between Thursday and Sunday, Chadinha said the plan is to keep it to Friday and Saturday nights “as much as possible.” Chadinha said there will be weekly announcements with more shows “because it’s hard to book a whole season at once,” he said.

Drive-In live was admittedly thrown together quickly, and what Chadinha described as a backyard party atmosphere, but with more time to prepare and plan, Chadinha said this year will have a more music festival vibe. There will be a bigger stage and LED screens, better sound and most noticeably, no cars. Instead of what felt like the equivalent of a drive-in concert, Northlands will now feature 10 foot by 10 foot pods for up to five people – a sixth person can be added for an additional fee. Tickets will be sold by pods and will be spaced six feet apart and attendees will park in adjacent lots and then walk to one of two audience entrances.

“And bigger bands because of all of it,” Chadinha said. “I think this is just lending itself to bigger household names. So as far as headliners go, we’re staying at a certain national level For us, it’s all about the music.”

Eliminating the need for cars to be parked in the field and wide travel lanes has allowed for Northlands to increase capacity by about 100 spaces. The reinvented venue will also include a concession area with food trucks and a beer garden.

Chadinha said there was a lot of cool things about Drive-In Live, but for it to continue “we had to legally make some changes to continue bringing live music to the region.”

“It worked for last year,” Chadinha said. “There were some really great things and not so great things. It was one of the cooler things to come out of 2020. But we had to move forward a bit.”

The cars created some sight line issues and absorbed some of the sound, and some bands expressed concern about basically playing to a parking lot.

Chadinha said the town of Swanzey has been great throughout the process to get Drive-In Live up and running so quickly and in working with them for the coming season. He said he knew that the fairgrounds had hosted shows in the past, most notably Metallica and Johnny Cash, “but I never really thought of it as a viable space for us.”

If you asked Chadinha one year ago if he’d be organizing an outdoor concert series at the Fairgrounds, there’s little chance he would have said yes. At that point he was in the midst of canceling and rebooking shows for his other venture, Peterborough Concert Series, and was wondering how the music industry would continue.

“Everything has taken a turn to a place that nobody probably expected,” he said.

The name Northlands actually came from a friend in Michigan, who is a music booking agent, after Chadinha put out a question on Facebook for name suggestions.

“It’s just perfect for us,” he said.

Chadinha said that pricing for tickets will be similar to last summer because they want it to be accessible to everyone who wants to see live music.

More information, tickets, and guidelines can be found at Northlands is produced by M.E. Productions. 

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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