It's long been said that music brings us together. While that's certainly true, could that be an issue in the age of the coronavirus? Despite infection rates surging throughout much of the country, states and venues are beginning to reopen and musicians are beginning to play live in front of crowds — sometimes without social distancing. The Chainsmokers, for instance, drew criticism for playing a "drive-in" show in The Hamptons on July 25 that appeared to eschew social distancing guidelines. While the crowd of more than 2,000 was encouraged to stay in their designated spaces, social media posts showed many fans doing anything but that. Images showed a large gathering of people pushed up against the stage and standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Many of the fans on hand also eschewed masks. On July 28, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the concert was "grossly disrespectful to fellow New Yorkers." Local officials could face "civil fines and potential criminal liability" for signing off on the show, he said. Click through to see who, like The Chainsmokers, has performed live in front of fans during the pandemic.
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Country star Chase Rice played in front of what appeared to be a huge crowd of people in Tennessee on June 27. Initial reports said 4,000 people attended, but Chase's team and the venue, Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, said less than 1,000 people were there. Regardless, social media showed that social distancing and masks were at a bare minimum. While several of country music's top names slammed Chase and the venue for the concert, other artists have actually played live ticketed concerts, too, but with less backlash — mostly because they put much more emphasis on social distancing. Chase later responded to the backlash by announcing his next show will be a drive-in concert during which fans would have to stay in their cars.
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On June 27, country singer Chris Janson performed at the Hwy 30 Fest in Filer, Idaho, before a reported crowd of 2,800. Chris actually posted videos and photos of the packed crowd but quickly took them down. "Thanks Idaho that was unbelievable. Love y'all," he captioned one photo showing the throng of shoulder-to-shoulder fans. By the way, the Hwy 30 Fest that Chris headlined was a three-day festival that included live performances by many, many other bands, albeit lesser known than Chris. Somehow, Chris escaped the backlash felt by Chase Rice, who played that same night before less people than Chris did 2,000 miles away.
Rock band Great White issued an apology after performing to a largely mask-less crowd in Dickinson, North Dakota, on July 9. According to reports, roughly 400 people attended the concert, which was part of the "First on First: Dickinson Summer Nights" series. "We understand that there are some people who are upset that we performed this show, during this trying time. We assure you that we worked with the Promoter. North Dakota's government recommends masks be worn, however, we are not in a position to enforce the law," the band said in a statement amid criticism. "We have had the luxury of hindsight and we would like to apologize to those who disagreed with our decision to fulfill our contractual agreement. The Promoter and staff were nothing but professional and assured us of the safety precautions…our intent was simply to perform our gig, outside, in a welcoming, small town."
Jon Pardi's concert at Walnut Hill Farm in Dalton, Georgia, on June 27 seemed to keep social distancing at the top of mind. In fact, it was a socially-distanced dinner and concert. Local reports said spots on the field at Walnut Hill were divided up into 12 x 12 all-inclusive "suites" for 10. All guests were required to bring their own chairs. "Do what we can!!!! Had a great show in Dalton, Georgia. Social distant and everything. It was fun. Thank you to everyone who came out," Jon wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of himself wearing a mask in his van. "Felt good to play," he added. Variety said temperatures were checked at entry and masks were required on shuttles to the venue, although not during dinner or the performance. Reports claimed about 500 people attended.
Like Jon Pardi, Jimmie Allen played at Walnut Hill Farm in Dalton, Georgia. Fans were socially distanced in their own areas while checking out the show. "Played our first show last night since March 11," Jimmie wrote on Twitter about his June 26 show. "First ever 'social distance' show. Not gonna lie it was weird at first. I got tired so I sat down and talked to the crowd for the while. I was totally out of 'show' shape but it felt great to play again." The owner of Walnut Hill Farm said 350 people attended the concert, which also included LANCO.
Jamey Johnson played to 350 fans while rounding out a three-day socially distant concert at Walnut Hill Farm in Dalton, Georgia.
The first post-pandemic live ticketed concert is believed to have occurred on May 18 in Arkansas. Travis McCready of blues-rock band Bishop Gunn took the stage in front of an estimated crowd of 200. The show was nearly canceled several times over health concerns, but it ended up going off without a hitch — though it was a very different experience. Concertgoers were required to wear face masks while inside the venue. Photos showed the crowd spaced out in what the venue called "fan pods." Guests' temperatures were checked before they were allowed to enter the venue. No more than 10 people were allowed to enter the restroom at any time. "I can't see anybody, so it looks like a full house to me," Travis told the crowd to a smattering of applause.
In a pandemic world, Tracy Lawrence turned to wine. The country singer performed at the Shawnee Bluff Vineyard in Missouri on June 20. There were no meet and greets, and a video posted by the singer showed a small crowd distancing as best they could, given the area. "Everything looked a little different, but dang it felt good to play a show!" Tracey later said. "It was good to see people having fun & enjoying live music while following guidelines & staying safe. Big thanks to Shawnee Bluff Vineyard for having us this weekend."
First, country singer Collin Raye planned to perform a free show in Kaysville, Utah, but plans were scrapped amid uproar from citizens and local officials. Then, the show was moved to a private venue in Tooele, Utah. Quickly, the Tooele County Health Department put a stop to it. Finally, on June 13, Collin played in Cedar City, Utah, which is located 250 miles south of Salt Lake City. The show was billed as a "protest" concert aimed at COVID-19 restrictions. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that "few" people were wearing masks during the show, during which there was no social distancing. The organizer of the event estimated 5,000 people attended. "This is more than a concert," Collin told the crowd after hopping on stage. "This is a celebration of our freedom and not living in fear, and for moving forward."
Granted, Post Malone's controversial Denver concert took place in the early days of the pandemic — but it went down after many, many other artists canceled or postponed their shows. Post felt the heat for his decision to play as COVID-19 cases became more and more frequent in the United States — the March 12 concert at Denver's Pepsi Center was reportedly packed. While attendance figures weren't announced, Pepsi Center typically seats 20,000 for a concert, and most of Post's concerts are sellouts. In the days that followed, he was scheduled to perform in Las Vegas and San Fransisco, though he canceled those gigs.
During the early days of the pandemic, 311 performed three shows in Las Vegas. The March 11, March 12 and March 13 shows were all said to be nearly sold out. The band released a statement explaining why they continued with the concert series amid the rash of cancelations by other artists: "We relied on the official recommendations of state and local authorities in deciding to proceed with the shows, including the statements of the governor of Nevada, the mayor of Las Vegas, and the Nevada health commissioner on March 12," they said. According to AV Club, the band didn't encourage social distancing or address the pandemic during the shows specifically, but lead singer Nick Hexum did thank the crowd "for being there in spite of everything without specifically saying anything about the virus."