You can Rock the Park at monthly virtual concert series

While some businesses are slowly getting back into the swing of things, people who rely on in-person gatherings and performances are having to get creative with how they can still do what they do best. Rock the Park, a free concert series typically held the 1st Thursday of every month at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa, is doing just that by kickstarting virtual concert livestreams so people can still jam to their favorite musicians safely from home.
 
"When everything with COVID-19 happened, it was an immediate halt on everyone in the event world from musicians to performers, photographers, sound engineers, and that broad spectrum. We knew it was going to take some time to start recovering. This whole industry had to pivot and be flexible with programming,'' says Rachel Radawec, Placemaking and Community Engagement Manager for the Tampa Downtown Partnership.
 
To keep the music going during quarantine, Rock the Park hosted weekly one-act concerts for two months through April and May to keep audiences entertained at home as a special add-on during those rough few months of adjusting. Not only did the Tampa Downtown Partnership want to give back to the public, but the business membership organization's goal was also to continue support of local talent and the music scene, including continuing to pay everyone from the artists to producers for their work.
 
"This summer, Rock the Park celebrated its 10th anniversary. We were anticipating this big outdoor concert with everyone we knew and loved, so it was a crazy time to celebrate. For our anniversary party on July 4th, we held the concert from an undisclosed location to make sure we did a safe location, everything was clean and sterile, followed standard format of three local artists,'' Radawec says. "With livestreaming, there were a lot of technical difficulties, but all of the bands we worked with are great, patient, and understanding. Our marketing has been looking at new ways of broadcasting. We used Lightstream, a program that allows you to act as a producer and shuffle between multiple screens. The first livestream ran pretty seamlessly, the second time was a lot harder because it wasn’t going smoothly.''
 
Depending on a mixture of variables like weather, temperature, and bands playing, Rock the Park typically (prior to COVID-19) pulled anywhere from 750-1,500 attendees. How is it doing now that it’s hosted online?
 
"From this, we learned that we had such a great response virtually and want to keep that digital component once we go back to in-person concerts,'' Radawec says. "The Tampa Downtown Partnership is looking at is across the board in how are we going to make programs hybrid in the future, with both live and livestream formats. The best part about Rock the Park livestreams is that it lives on in perpetuity. Our numbers are outstanding and it keeps growing.''
 
The next Rock the Park virtual concert will be on Thursday, Aug. 6, from 7-10 p.m. Featured local talents include Have Gun, Will Travel; Tribal Style; and others from a hidden location to keep people social distanced.
 
As much as Rock the Park wants to be back in an actual park, they will continue livestream concerts until things settle down which could be longer than expected.
 
“As someone who does these large-scale events for a living, its this weird realm of unknown. We really thought that we were going to be in-person in August, but now it’s clear that won’t happen. To err on the side of caution, we will continue to wait for everyone’s safety,” Radawec explains. “We would love by the end of the year, but the best we can do is be hopeful and be safe by practicing social distancing and slowly get back to how we used to be.”
 

Read more articles by Caitlin Albritton.

Caitlin Albritton is a freelance writer based in Tampa with a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and a MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. When she's not looking at art throughout town, she can be found making it. You can keep up with her visual art on Instagram @caitlinalbritton or on her website. Visit her recent line of inlay “wearable paintings.”
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