Tennessee is approaching nearly 40,000 cases of COVID-19, with around 477 death documented regarding the illness, even spiking with over 1,400 new cases on June 26 and nearly half this number the following day. The state has also not reported any additional cases over the weekend due to “system issues,” which have prevented further updates regarding its spread across the state.
While most other artists are cancelling performances altogether, or even searching ways to hold socially-distant events, country musician Chase Rice had other plans. Rice decided to hold a concert filled with over 800 unmasked fans situated closely together in a venue fit for 10,000 people at the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee. The venue is a former penitentiary which has been made into a museum and occasional concert venue.
The venue released a statement stating that the show sold only 954 tickets, with only 809 of those tickets being scanned upon entrance into the venue. The venue reduced its capacity from 10,000 to 4,000 for the event and stated that bandannas were sold at the site. Vendors and staff were only “advised” to wear gloves and masks when interacting with customers, who were given temperature checks at the door.
“We were unable to further enforce the physical distancing recommended in the signage posted across the property and are looking into future alternative scenarios that further protect the attendees, artists and their crews and our employees,” the venue said in a statement to Pitchfork. “We are reevaluating the series from the top to bottom—from implementing further safety measures, to adding stanchions, to converting the space to drive-in style concerts, to postponing shows.”
Images from the concert were soon spread across social media, with one picture showing Rice, sans face mask, smiling happily alongside an eager crowd, while a video of the crowd shows thousands of people shouting and jumping, without any space between each other.
Chase Rice just played a concert to an enormous crowd of unmasked fans here in Tennessee. For once, I am at a loss for words. pic.twitter.com/wB47u1EaFd
— Lorie Liebig (@lorieliebig) June 28, 2020
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Reactions to this event have been largely negative on social media, as the Southern United States sees massive rises of COVID-19 cases since reopening. The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle condemned this action, stating that the move negatively impacts conscientious musicians and fans who have been following social distancing guidelines. Fellow country musician Kelsea Ballerini also echoed this sentiment, calling the performance “selfish.” Others have come to Rice’s defense by misrepresenting the legendary 1969 Woodstock concert, which was alleged to have taken place during a similar pandemic; although both Reuters and Snopes have debunked this claim.
the people in this audience, along with the presenters of this show, are assuring that conscientious musicians won’t be able to work their jobs for a while, and that conscientious audiences won’t be able to see shows for the foreseeable, and to be blunt, that fucking sucks. https://t.co/QwB85m0Phv
— The Mountain Goats (@mountain_goats) June 28, 2020
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. @ChaseRiceMusic, We all want (and need) to tour. We just care about our fans and their families enough to wait. 🤷🏼♀️ https://t.co/eJaLnGu28k
— Kelsea Ballerini (@KelseaBallerini) June 28, 2020
As a musician Rice is known for his hit single “Eyes On You,” which topped the Country Charts in 2019, although he began his entertainment career by appearing on Survivor: Nicaragua in 2010. Rice also released a video statement to Instagram following this performance, stating that his future concerts will be socially-distant drive-in events.
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Check out the venue’s full statement below:
All local requirements were abided by for the recent concert, and numerous precautions were taken. We drastically reduced our maximum venue capacity of 10,000 to 4,000 maximum capacity (lower than the state’s advisement of 50%) with less than 1,000 (954 tickets sold with 809 tickets scanned) in attendance Saturday night providing ample space in the outdoor lawn area for fans to spread out to their own comfort level. 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 when interacting with guests, and bandanas were available for purchase on-site. We were unable to further enforce the physical distancing recommended in the signage posted across the property and are looking into future alternative scenarios that further protect the attendees, artists and their crews and our employees. We are reevaluating the series from the top to bottom—from implementing further safety measures, to adding stanchions, to converting the space to drive-in style concerts, to postponing shows.