The Queen City Telethon in Charlotte, NC

Article and Photos by: Jason Robey

CHARLOTTE, NC — Live music returned to the Queen City this weekend with a rooftop drive-in concert at Abari in NoDa. In the wake of widespread shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, musicians, bars, and others who rely on live entertainment for their living have been looking for ways to maintain their livelihood, while keeping their patrons safe.

The Queen City Telethon, organized by Jeremy Smith and Leo Solis of Four Finger Records, featured three local favorites playing a thirty-minute set from the rooftop of Abari arcade. According to Smith, the two had been discussing possibilities for some kind of telethon to raise some money for some of those in the scene who were affected by the shutdown. The idea of rooftop concert came from the manager of Abari and the owner of another popular area bar, Hattie’s Tap & Tavern.

The size of Abari’s parking lot limited the attendance to 35 cars, but the entire show was live-streamed on Facebook and Twitch, complete with between band, telethon-style banter, interviews and raffles. Those in attendance could watch the bands on the roof, while listening over their car stereos.

First to the roof was folk / alt-country duo, Saints and Sinners. As they struck the final notes of their opening song, “Crazy 8’s,” the air filled with the sound of car horns, in place of the usual screams and applause. For most, if not all, in the audience, this was the first taste of live music in at least three months. With the ice broken, they continued through their set with an air of elation to be performing again.

Following a short break, Solis took the stage. Opening with their single, “Stay Young,” the husband and wife duo were joined by Jeremy Smith on bass for an upbeat, spacey pop set. The group soared through their half hour, closing with a beautiful run-through of “Control,” from their 2016 debut album.

Five-piece indie rockers Petrov closed the show, kicking off their set with a song from their upcoming EP. The group continued through their energetic performance with a handful of songs from their debut album, Sleep Year. Their unique style mixes complex passages with in-your-face hooks, coming together for an interesting performance.

“It was a ton of work, but everyone had a blast,” Smith reported after the show. “With the opening date for bars and venues still up in the air, we’re definitely scheming up the next one.” He added that the next show will probably focus more on the concert than the extra pieces, but he wouldn’t change anything about this first one.

“We’re CLT music scene enthusiasts already, but throughout the shutdowns and the protests, it’s just been so cool to see everyone come together and help each other. We have an amazing community here and its been a great reminder.”

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