Mt. Joy promotes sophomore album with live drive-in concerts

By Kendall Polidori, Co-editor-in-chief

Los Angeles-based indie-folk collective Mt. Joy will tour for the first time since the start of the pandemic with two live drive-in concerts in Chicago in September. Courtesy/Mt. Joy

In June, indie-folk group Mt. Joy released their sophomore album in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, without the ability to tour and promote it as originally planned.

The album, “Rearrange Us,” was released a week after the death of George Floyd, and bassist Michael Byrnes said while the band did not want to disappoint fans and postpone the album, they also made no effort to heavily promote its release.

“It didn’t feel like our album was more important than what was going on,” said Byrnes, who is also a 2013 contemporary, urban and popular music alum.

Without the possibility of touring and playing live shows due to coronavirus concerns and restrictions, Mt. Joy jumped on the opportunity to kick off a short drive-in style tour with four shows set for the end of August through September.

For two days, on Sept. 25 and 26, the band will have a drive-in concert in the parking lot of Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive.

“We’re pretty confident that these events will keep people safe, and we figured we’d go for it if we could, so here we are,” Byrnes said.

The show itself will be set up like drive-in movies are: with a large screen and stage at the front and cars parked in designated spots. For the first two shows in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, Byrnes said those in attendance will tune into an FM station in their cars in order to hear the performance, but he is unsure how shows in Chicago will be set up.

“I don’t know how people will act,” Byrnes said. “I know we’re all a bit paranoid people will be honking their horns the entire time. It’s not the same, but it’s better than nothing.”

Because Mt. Joy had not released an album since 2018, “Rearrange Us” was the first time each band member was able to experiment with their sound and show off their individual skills, Byrnes said.

He said since they have been playing together, Mt. Joy has always been on the move and touring, so the pandemic gave them the opportunity to slow down and dive into their work more.

“[This album] was definitely pulling the best that we could out of each other … hopefully the next album, album three, will be even further in that direction,” Byrnes said.

As a graduate from Columbia, Byrnes said he owes a lot to the college for the opportunities he was given, from being involved in ensembles to having faculty members who were in the industry such as Chuck Webb, a Chicago jazz artist who teaches private lessons.

“It was a great place to be a pretty green musician, and it was pretty fostering,” Byrnes said.

As a successful artist, Byrnes’ advice for young musicians is to treat people with kindness and be humble—he said always look after colleagues because they will do the same for you.

For Mt. Joy’s first live shows since the start of the pandemic, Byrnes is begging all audience members to wear a mask. While indoor concerts are still a long way off in the U.S., other countries like Germany are experimenting with bringing them back.

As reported by CNN, researchers in Leipzig staged a 1,500-person experimental indoor concert Saturday, Aug. 22 to “better understand how Covid-19 spreads at big, busy events, and how to prevent it.” Obtained data will be used to determine ways to bring back large events safely.

“If you want to see shows, all musicians are waiting until we can get back at it, [and it’s] probably one of the last things [that] can go back to normal, so please wear a mask,” Byrnes said.