| The Columbus Dispatch
Top-selling Christian rockers Casting Crowns normally play arenas; this year, the band is doing drive-ins.
And on Thursday, it will bring its show to the South Drive-in Theatre in Columbus.
“If you’ve ever wanted to get up close and personal with Casting Crowns from the comfort of your own car, now is your chance,” said Brian Scoggin, the band’s drummer for the past 11 years.
Scoggin, 37, is one of seven members of the group, which got its start in 1999 under the leadership of youth pastor Mark Hall, who continues as the group’s chief songwriter and lead singer. Besides the expected guitar, bass and drums, the group features Megan Garrett on guitar and keyboards and Melodee DeVevo on violin and cello.
Since its debut album in 2003, the band has hit the top 10 of the Billboard 200 charts several times, and has had numerous No. 1 hits on the Christian charts. Of the band’s 17 albums, seven have sold more than a million copies each.
Scoggin spoke recently by phone from Stephens City, Virginia. The small town, where the band was getting ready to perform, is about an hour west of Washington, and it is typical of many of the drive-in sites on the group’s current tour in that it’s so small that in a normal year, one wouldn’t expect to see a single major concert there.
“The people in these smaller towns aren’t getting a new entertainment show coming through every week. So it’s been nice to go to places where people are excited about having a show come through,” Scoggin said.
The Columbus performance is one of more than than 50 on a tour that stretches from the summer through the end of October, and on which Ohio is well represented, with other stops in Liberty Center, Norwalk, Dayton, Sidney and Tiffin.
Much of the tour is in the Midwest, where drive-ins have survived and thrived. Growing up in central Florida, Scoggin didn’t have much experience with such venues.
“I had one drive-in experience as a kid, and I think that was the only time I ever went. I was so small, and I wasn’t really paying attention to anything,” he said. “I remember getting out of the car, and getting my feet filled up with sandspurs (a particularly unpleasant type of burred grass). I thought, ‘This is terrible!’”
But the venues have grown on him during the tour.
“I’d like to take my kids to one,” he said, referring to his two teenaged sons.
When the tour gets to a site, the band members hole up in a nearby hotel.
“The crew doesn’t want us out there (at the drive-in) because we just get in the way,” Scoggin said.
The crew sets up a pull-behind trailer stage in front of the movie screen, on which the concert is projected. When it’s time for the concert, cars file in. Admission is by the carload rather than the individual, with a maximum of six people per car.
“On our smaller nights, we’ve been seeing about 200 cars, and on our bigger nights, it’s more like 600 cars,” Scoggin said.
Most of the time, Scoggin said, concertgoers don’t stay in their cars, but put lounge chairs out in front of them and settle in for two hours of what Scoggin refers to as “music and teaching.”
“Obviously, we’re a little more spaced out, so it’s not your traditional concert energy,” he said. “But for the concertgoer, it’s kind of a nice VIP environment. You’ve got space, you’re not crammed into a seat. You’ve got freedom to do what you want.”
Like all Casting Crowns tours, this one has a religious purpose.
“The mission is to go out and encourage and strengthen those who believe, and see those who don’t believe come to believe in Christ,” Scoggin said.
That has extra meaning these days given all the division that exists.
“People aren’t going to even understand how it’s going to affect them to be in a place full of people all doing the same thing with love and unity,” he said. “That’s not something we’re seeing in our culture today, but it’s a powerful, powerful thing.”
But the experience isn’t all earnest.
“We’ve seen people pull in with their pickup, and in the back of the pickup they’ve got a hammock. They’re watching the concert, and they’re all snuggled up in their hammock,” he said. “You’re buying concessions from the normal movie theater concession stands, so be prepared to eat popcorn and drink sodas, I guess. It’s funny, lots of times we’re doing some really weighty and serious music, and somebody’s there eating popcorn and hot dogs.”
At a glance
Casting Crowns will perform Thursday at the South Drive-in Theater, 3050 S. High St. Doors open 6 p.m., show begins at dusk. Admission is $100-$175 per car (up to six people per car). For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.driveintheatertour.com.