The con­cept of the dri­ve-in looms large in the day­dreams of the schlock fiend.  Once a sta­ple of American towns big and small, they are now rar­i­ties that remain oper­a­tional in a hand­ful of places.  Even when you can find them, they’re play­ing the expect­ed mul­ti­plex junk instead of the amped-up exploita­tion fare for than b-movie fans asso­ciate with the dri­ve-in con­cept.  That fan­ta­sy of see­ing trashy movie clas­sics under the stars, much like the fan­ta­sy of see­ing grungy flicks at a grind­house, remains just that — a fan­ta­sy — for most peo­ple who are inter­est­ed in the­se kinds of movies.

Thus, when the oppor­tu­ni­ty to see the right kind of movies at a real-live dri­ve-in presents itself, self-respect­ing schlockophiles owe it to them­selves to jump at the oppor­tu­ni­ty — and that’s what your Humble Reviewer did when he found out about the Drive Invasion.  This annu­al event has been going on for over a decade now at Atlanta’s Starlight Six Drive-in and it offers up an all-pur­pose cel­e­bra­tion of schlock-cul­ture, Southern-style: there is a vin­tage car show, a slew of bands play­ing all after­noon and vin­tage dri­ve-in movies all night long.

This was Your Humble Reviewer’s sec­ond vis­it to this sto­ried event so he knew what he was in for when he arrived this time.  He arrived at the Drive-In around 10:30 — gates open around 10 for the event and it’s advis­able to get there ear­ly if you want a plum spot for the evening’s cin­e­mat­ic fes­tiv­i­ties.

You imme­di­ate­ly get that delight­ful vin­tage feel­ing as you roll onto the lot — this dri­ve-in has been in busi­ness since 1949 and it makes no ges­tures towards try­ing to be hip or mod­ern.  When you step into the snack bar, it retains its old-school lay­out and look.  Even the murals added to its inner walls main­tain a charm­ing retro sen­si­bil­i­ty.

Bands played through­out the after­noon: there were stages set up near the snack bar and the pro­jec­tion build­ing, with acts trad­ing off at each loca­tion into the evening hours.  Drive Invasion’s approach to music mix­es rock­a­bil­ly, punk, surf and alt-coun­try sounds into the event’s own sig­na­ture son­ic brew.  Bands this year includ­ed the Fleshtones, the Cynics and Jason & The Scorchers (who played a near­ly two-hour set to close the musi­cal por­tion of the fes­tiv­i­ties).

To be hon­est, the music part of the event wasn’t a big inter­est for Your Humble Reviewer so he only gave it pass­ing atten­tion.  That said,  he was delight­ed to hear one band play some­thing that sound­ed like the Ventures doing a surf-rock instru­men­tal with Tijuana Brass-style horns sprin­kled on top.  It would be nice to see a lit­tle more in the way of soul or funk rep­re­sent­ed on the line­up since those styles are just as much a part of the Southern music expe­ri­ence but what was there obvi­ous­ly pleased most of the crowd.

There were also tent-style stands to peruse, main­ly local busi­ness­es and some groups set­ting up tables to pro­mote Atlanta-area events.  Art, cloth­ing and a vari­ety of kitschy knick-knacks could be pur­chased at the­se stands.  Your Humble Reviewer’s favorite was an enter­pris­ing indi­vid­u­al who made mag­nets using art from vin­tage film posters and rock music-relat­ed imagery.

There was a sur­pris­ing min­i­mum of food ven­dors — basi­cal­ly, there was one stand serv­ing bar­be­cue and anoth­er stand serv­ing corn dogs and fun­nel cakes in addi­tion to the snack bar (note: the fun­nel cakes were great but they low­er your cen­ter of grav­i­ty close to the asphalt for the next three or four hours after you eat one).  Unless addi­tion­al food ven­dors get added to future shows, your best bet is to pack a lunch and/or snacks.

Even bet­ter was a vin­tage car show.  It was open to cars from 1972 or ear­lier and the result­ing line­up includ­ed rat, rod, cus­tom and stock cars.  The high­light was a con­vinc­ing repli­ca of Stuntman Mike’s car from Death Proof, com­plete with a chrome duck hood orna­ment (which was a ref­er­ence to the hood orna­ment of Kris Kristofferson’s rig in Convoy, a film that was screened dur­ing the evening part of the event).

Your Humble Reviewer also enjoyed get­ting to meet author/schlock-historian Paul Talbot, who wrote the mod­ern-clas­sic film tomes Mondo Mandingo and Bronson’s Loose.  He’s a great guy and a font of fas­ci­nat­ing info about exploita­tion films (top­ics of dis­cus­sion with Mr. Talbot includ­ed Cannon Films, the Exterminator series, the ins and outs of Tom “Billy Jack” Laughlin’s career, etc.).

Come back on Thursday for the sec­ond part of this report, includ­ing a run­down of the movies shown and thoughts on the event itself.