Country singer Chase Rice is catching heat from some quarters of the industry after posting video from a Tennessee performance over the weekend, showing a packed crowd without masks or social distancing, even as coronavirus cases rise across the country.
“Imagine being selfish enough to put thousands of people’s health at risk, not to mention the potential ripple effect, and play a NORMAL country concert right now,” wrote Kelsea Ballerini on twitter, sharing the video Rice had posted from the show. “@ChaseRiceMusic, We all want (and need) to tour. We just care about our fans and their families enough to wait.”
Coverage of the concert and fan reactions by Variety indicated a believe that this performance and another by Chris Janson that has received similarly negative reaction, are the first ticketed live performances put on with no social distancing measures in place as the country reopens. Others chimed in with their support for the performances, highlighting that it is a welcome sight to see audiences once again able to enjoy music and a night out after months of quarantine.
Venue officials told Variety that the venue for Rice’s performance adhered to all guidelines in place for the state. “We drastically reduced our maximum venue capacity of 10,000 to 4,000 with less than 1,000 in attendance Saturday night, providing ample space in the outdoor lawn area for fans to spread out to their own comfort level,” said Brian May, VP of the Brushy Mountain Group, which operates the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. “All guests were given temperature checks prior to entering the venue and free hand sanitizer was provided to everyone at entry. All vendors and staff were advised to wear masks and gloves while interacting with guets, and bandanas were available for purchase on site.”
— Ricky Valero (@rickyvalero_) June 28, 2020
May told Variety that the venue will reexamine its policies in the wake of the concert to do more to promote social distancing guidelines, which were posted throughout the space but not enforced.
Janson’s performance in Idaho reportedly saw nearly 3,000 in attendance, and similarly lacked social distancing protocol adherence by those in the crowd.
“I personally only saw one person wearing a mask the entire day, and that was a merch seller,” one attendee told Variety. “Even vendors and staff were not wearing masks throughout the night.”
The concerts and reaction on social media illustrate the national divide on how to treat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which comes largely along political alignments. Many argue that current reopening efforts are premature and will exacerbate virus transmission rates and potentially overwhelm hospitals and lead to significant death. Bolstering that line of thinking is the fact that the U.S. has been seeing record-high new case totals of late, after initial successes in reducing positive cases after an April peak driven largely by New York and New Jersey. Tennessee saw its highest total to date – 1,410 – reported on Friday. On the opposing side are those who believe that much higher testing totals are driving the higher case numbers, but the actual numbers of infections are flat, and a necessary risk to take to stem further economic damage.
Both artists had made their feelings on that divide known before the weekend, with public statements and song lyrics indicating their desire to get back to normal released in March and April.