Drive-in Picnic Concert Hits the Right Note.

OEP Live! presented their first live shows for 2020 with a midsummer Drive-in-Picnic Concert on Friday 14th August featuring Robbie Gladwell and his band and special guests Harry Greene (sax & guitar), Brian Butler (trombone) and Michael Clifford (sax, flute and vocals).

I was delightfully looking forward to this concept and love the idea of a drive-in (shelter if it rains), a picnic (who doesn’t enjoy a picnic?) and live music – a charming combination. I went early to make sure I got a good slot to get settled, however having a pick-up truck meant I was towards the back – this showed attention to detail from the marshals to make sure the audience were fairly positioned. Even the classic cars views were not blocked.

First thing to do was test the headphones with the background music … yup working and clear. I sat on my allocated pitch for munchies before the concert started. The atmosphere-setting background music seemed loud enough from the speakers and I was curious whether we needed the head sets. If it rained – we’d need them as we’d be in the car, and it was the end of the long weeks of glorious weather.

You’re never going to have a dull night with Robbie Gladwell and his band: Julie Gladwell (vocals, tamborine), Paul Airey (keyboards), James Digings (drums), and Alan Carruthers (bass) as their approach to live gigging is talented, experienced banter. With the special guests on stage too, it was a night of musical enchantment. They are all such brilliant musicians in their own right and the way Robbie pulls (drags) them together it all flows and aligns even if there is improvising going on: they can do this stuff in their sleep. This natural and jovial attitude creates a fun and entertaining night to make it more than just about the music.

I love the way Robbie brings in so much talent into his gigs: the inclusiveness of the variety of instruments is a delightful cacophony. It enhanced layers to the airwaves.

Plenty of tracks through the night: Midnight Hour, Unchain My Heart, Spinning Wheel, Baker Street, Proud Mary, Pretty Woman, Red Red Wine, I Heard it Through the Grapevine, Make Me Smile, Sweet Home Chicago, I Wanna Be Like You, Dance The Night Away, Sway, Everybody Knows Who I am and more!

When have you heard a flute, or a trombone in some of these tracks? Mastermind. It was good and I liked it!

Whereas Robbie sang most of the tracks Julie, Paul and Michael had their turns too which mixed up the vocals all doing a good job. For the musicians, it’s the first live gig in months and they were just having a party.

This concept created a lot of flexibility to a gig which you wouldn’t normally have: in the car, out the car, headphones, no headphones, louder, standing, sitting, laying, dancing. As mentioned I had a pick-up and yes I was in the back standing – great view and sound. Once it got colder I went in the cab with and without the headphones. Both options were good. You can make it louder with the headphones and cut out all the surrounding noise – lots of choices depending on your personal preference. Keep the headphones on while going to the loo and you don’t miss a note.

The audience were dancing in their zones and more and more were donning their headphones as the gig progressed, only so they could ramp up the volume in their ears. As night fell we had the lights from the stage and all the coloured lights from the headphones bobbing about in the dark. Like a regular gig, people still shouted at each other while donning the headphones – and what was hilarious was the singing……people were singing to the music in their ears and a lot louder than what they would normally!

The stage set-up was a level of professionalism not expected in a village cricket field. All the lights, smoke and a great sound system even through the headphones. A smaller crowd than expected but the weather may have put them off however it made it feel more intimate for the audience who did come alone. With Lavenham Church at our backs it felt it was an exclusive night just for us.

It was a super fun night and have no hesitation to go to another Drive-in-Picnic Concert.

Robbie Gladwell Lavenham Picnic Party image © Hayley Clapperton
Robbie Gladwell Lavenham Picnic Party image © Hayley Clapperton