For any San Antonians pondering whether to install bass boom speakers in the back of their car, now might be the ideal time. The first-ever EDM Drive-In music festival is set to fill the Freeman Coliseum parking lot Friday and Saturday, June 26 and 27, with an array of sights and sounds aimed at facilitating a healthy way for young people to party during the coronavirus pandemic.

EDM, or electronic dance music, is a popular art form practiced by DJs who blend beats and music in mixes that usually flow through dance clubs. Each night will feature guest DJs from around the country, and a slate of local DJs will perform for “squads” of eventgoers as they arrive in their vehicles.

Pandemic safety and social distancing protocols will be maintained during the event, with festivalgoers encouraged to stay in their cars, or dance just outside them, to music streamed through their FM car radios.

Tickets are available in squad categories of two to six adults able to comfortably inhabit their vehicles for the five-hour performances. Each vehicle will occupy a comfortable 17- to 20-foot space, with enough room for outside dancing if eventgoers are so moved, though all will be asked to stay within their groups to maintain proper social distancing.

The idea originated with a successful EDM drive-in festival in Frankfurt, Germany. The EDM community is a worldwide network, said Sid “Sid Z” Zuber, an experienced festival producer, and the idea caught on.  

“We came up with this idea of ‘What if we do this EDM Drive-In [here]?’ And practice social distancing, and let everybody know that you can still go and have a good time together,” Zuber said.

Sid “Sid Z” Zuber stands in front of the stage at the Freeman Coliseum where his EDM Drive-Thru will take place on Saturday and Sunday night. Credit: Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Well-known within the EDM world, the Los Angeles-based Zuber had been approached by Fred Reyes to bring an event to San Antonio. Together with Reyes’ colleague Miguel “Miggs” Lizarraga, they formed the group Electric Fiesta, with an eye toward attracting the 18-24 age demographic to a Fiesta celebration.

Reyes served as Rey Feo for Fiesta 2017 and recognized the need to continue the charitable side of Fiesta even as the annual event was postponed to November. His philanthropic commitment jibed with Zuber’s longtime focus on partying for good causes, Zuber said, so teaming up seemed natural.

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“The charity component is very important to him, and it’s very important to me, too,” Zuber said. A former production company he was part of was called People Who Love You (PWLY), in part to highlight the community culture that raves are meant to inspire. PWLY held canned food drives at Thanksgiving, started children’s gift drives during the holiday season, and made donations of school supplies for underprivileged students in communities where it held events.

When Reyes approached him, Zuber said he told him, “What can I do to help? … People are hurting more than ever. We have to come correct with something.”

A portion of the proceeds from the EDM Drive-In festival will go to the Rey Feo Scholarship Foundation, and for Action United for Entertainers and Diverse Artists and the WHET Foundation, both of which raise money for artists in need.  

For Zuber, the EDM concept is ideal for bringing people together in a positive way, despite the dual context of simmering racial tensions and rising coronavirus cases. He cited the universality of music without lyrics and said throughout his long career as a producer, “the thing that I always noticed — and it sounds silly, but it’s still the same principle – of peace, love, unity, and respect,” which he shortened to “PLUR.”

Allowing oneself to get into the spectacles of sound and light, “you’re feeling something inside your soul that’s triggering some sort of an emotion from you, which is just so exciting. It really binds people together,” Zuber said.

Reyes said 90 percent of tickets, including VIP section tickets, have sold, and he encouraged San Antonians to move quickly to assure tickets are still available. He also said those disappointed by July Fourth cancellations have added incentive to attend. The EDM Drive-In website announces in all-caps: “NIGHTLY FIREWORKS!”

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...