A woman with a bag of golf clubs slung over her shoulder stepped inside Burlingame Golf Center Wednesday looking to sharpen her swing.
Instead, she was turned away. The golf center was closed.
It will reopen Thursday transformed into the “Bayshore Drive-In” and will host nine live music and comedy performances over the next three weekends with the audience watching from their cars on the driving range of the Burlingame Golf Center.
“They have big acts (coming in),” said Chris Aliaga, operator of the Burlingame Golf Center. “They’re doing 400 cars and they’ve already sold out some shows.
“It’s quite a production.”
Tickets range in price and the closer to the stage, the more expensive the ticket. A maximum of four people per car are permitted, but each person must have their own ticket. This is not like a drive-in movie or other drive-in concerts that offered one price per car.
The concert series, presented by Hotbox and HushConcerts in association with the city of Burlingame, begins Thursday with Thundercat, a former member of the thrash band Suicidal Tendencies who has since branched out into jazz-funk fusion. Friday, DJ Shiba San takes the stage with his brand of house music, while Saturday electronic super trio Major Lazer, which features DJ/producer Diplo, plays a pair of sold-out shows. Pink Martini closes out the weekend Sunday with its jazz-pop sound.
Next Thursday, Oct. 29, DJs take the stage to spin R&B tunes, Friday and Sunday shows feature Marc Rebillet with his brand of music and comedy and then Nov. 7, stand-up comic Bert Kreischer will take the stage.
Robbie Kowal, CEO of HushConcerts, said the acts are big-name attractions because he didn’t want to do through all the trouble of producing the concerts unless it was worthwhile.
“You better have something worth driving out for,” Kowal said.
Kowal said he already had a relationship with Hotbox, which works with some of the artists. It was telling Kowal throughout the summer it wanted to put on an event in the Bay Area and that if Kowal could find a venue, Hotbox would bring their tours.
‘Let’s do it on the driving range’
Kowal stumbled onto the Burlingame Golf Center almost by accident. Aliaga said he was working with the city of Burlingame to provide a spot for the city to continue its “Movie in the Park” series, which was postponed from the summer because of COVID-19.
“Since they (the city) couldn’t do that, they thought about doing it in the parking lot (of the Burlingame Golf Center). I thought, ‘Why do it in the parking lot? Let’s do it on the driving range.’
“It was a pretty good hit (with moviegoers).”
This is not your old-school drive-in where you grabbed the boxy speaker off the pole and hung it off your window. To make the drive-in movie work, organizers needed to bring in audio experts to produce the FM signal that allowed car stereos to pick up the broadcast.
Kowal was part of the team that put together the sound at the Burlingame drive-in movie.
He had his venue.
“[Kowal] called me the next week and asked, ‘Would you ever consider doing concerts out there?’” Aliaga said. “I contacted … the parks and rec department. That was six weeks ago. It’s been going back-and-forth planning and it’s come to fruition.”
Kowal said the golf center is ideal because of the natural amphitheater setting. The driving range at the golf center has what Aliaga estimates to be a 40-foot slope going from east to west. With the stage set up where golfers would hit golf balls, the terrain slopes upward, providing excellent sight lines for viewing.
“The grounds are fantastic,” Kowal said.
There is one drawback, however — traffic. The easiest way to get to the golf center is to take the Anza Boulevard exit if you’re driving north on Highway 101. But organizers are asking concertgoers to take either the Broadway exit if you’re heading south on Highway 101, or take the Peninsula Avenue exit if driving north.
Regardless of the route in or out, there are bound to be traffic issues.
“People will have to be patient,” Kowal said, although Burlingame Parks and Recreation Director Margaret Glomstad said entering and exiting after the city’s drive-in movie went fairly smooth.
Getting the approval from Aliaga was only the first step. Concert organizers then had to coordinate with the city of Burlingame to get all the appropriate permits and make sure the organizers’ safety protocol was sound.
But Kowal said there are two main goals he wants to achieve with these shows, the first being to put people back to work in the concert industry.
“This isn’t like any other show I’ve ever put on. It’s a whole new world where profit is the last motivation,” Kowal said. “The motivation, to me, is to get people back to work. … We have hundreds of thousands of event professionals out of work.”
Kowal said there are 75 workers associated with the show, who will handle everything from stage setup to parking attendants.
Kowal’s second major goal is to make sure no one gets sick so expect some rigid COVID-19 enforcement if you decide to check out a concert.
“Safety is so crucial we go through so many levels of safety. … We will have security and COVID-control officers (on the grounds)” Kowal said. “I’ve had COVID. My whole family had COVID back in February before it was ‘a thing.’ I don’t wish that on anybody.”
Kowal said he was more willing to find a way to do shows in the Bay Area because he believes people here have handled the pandemic better than other places. He believes Bay Area fans understand the need to keep everyone safe.
“One of the only reasons we wanted to do try it out is because people in the Bay Area know how to act,” Kowal said. “The most important thing is no one gets sick.”
Since these shows have come along, Aliaga said he’s been fielding calls from other groups looking to stage shows at the Burlingame Golf Center.
“I’ve been getting quite a bit of calls from different promoters,” Aliaga said. “At the end of the day, I’m more concerned with providing the best golf experience. Golf is my passion. But at the same time, I’m trying to increase revenue.”