Tampa DJ Blunts and Blondes was in quarantine, in the middle of a game of Call of Duty, when he got a FaceTime call from Carnage.
The superstar trap DJ was planning an all-new type of concert event in Orlando — a drive-in EDM festival dubbed the Road Rave at the Central Florida Fairgrounds. It would be one of America’s first live, large-scale music events since the COVID-19 pandemic. And he wanted Blunts and Blondes on the bill.
“I needed a local hero to be behind this, because this isn’t a normal thing,” Carnage (real name: Diamante Blackmon) said by phone recently. “I wanted somebody who had the state on lock, and had the local electronic community behind him. I couldn’t do this without him there.”
Blunts and Blondes (real name: Mike Guard) was in right away.
“I think it’s pretty historic,” he said. “When you look at the history of music, especially our type of music overseas, it’s like, we start movements. It’s pretty cool.”
Coming on the heels of drive-in raves this past weekend in Houston and Phoenix, Orlando’s Road Rave features headliner Carnage along with Blunts and Blondes, Riot Ten, Nitti Gritti and Gravedgr. Parking spaces sold out within 24 hours; tickets sold out not long thereafter.
A plethora of rules abound: six fans to a car, people can’t leave their space, face masks required, and concessionaires roaming in golf carts taking snack orders from food trucks. For the artists, too, safety will be paramount — no fan meet and greets, plenty of distancing backstage, and masks on the main stage.
“If I have to wear a mask to go and play a live show, I will wear 30 masks,” Carnage said. "This isn’t about us socializing and going to hang out with people. This is more about us doing something for the fans, in and out, being safe and responsible. We don’t want to put the fans in danger.”
Carnage, who has worked with artists like Migos and Mac Miller, developed the idea after seeing footage of a similar concert in Germany. He was bored in his house and didn’t want to livestream shows. But a drive-in festival? That, he thought, was just crazy enough to work — even if only temporarily.
“This is just one step closer to going back to regular life and being back in the clubs, being back at regular festivals,” he said. “This isn’t a regular thing that I want to happen. I don’t want it to only be drive-in shows for the rest of this year and next year. I just want to do this in the meanwhile, until things get back to normal. We have to start somewhere.”
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As Orlando is so centrally located, the festival will likely draw guests from all over the state. Blunts and Blondes said he’d like to see something similar in Tampa, but “it’s going to be hard to find a venue that’ll work that well for that.” He said he trusts fans to be on their best behavior. (Organizers on Monday said it was too early to tell if this past weekend’s protests could have an impact on the Orlando event.)
“Despite us being Florida and having the ‘Florida Man’ stigma, I think everybody collectively wants to have a good time,” Blunts and Blondes said. “So I think everybody’s going to be collectively responsible.”
Organizers delayed Road Rave Orlando until June 20 due to social justice protests going on in Florida and around the nation.
Carnage doesn’t believe “any of us are really making any money" off the festival, he said. (A portion of the proceeds will go toward COVID-19 relief in Nicaragua, where he grew up.) He mainly just wants to get back on stage.
Prior to last weekend’s Road Raves in Phoenix, Carnage hadn’t performed since a gig in Taiwan in early March. The June 20 event (delayed from June 6) will be Blunts and Blondes’ first gig since cutting short a tour in Grand Rapids, Mich., less than three months ago.
“This is about the people going to enjoy live music like we did back in the day,” Carnage said. “This is just somewhere to meet in the middle and try to give live music and that kind of atmosphere back to the fans.”
“It’s crazy that you had to say ‘back in the day,’” Blunts and Blondes said.
“Yeah,” Carnage said. “It’s crazy.”
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