Chase Rice held what looked to be a regular concert on Saturday (June 27) in Tennessee. The country singer performed a set at Petros’ Historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, which was converted from a prison into a venue years ago.
In two Instagram Stories videos late that night, Rice shared the scene of concert attendees packed up against the outdoor stage, waving their arms and singing his song “Eyes on You.” People in the crowd did not appear to be wearing masks.
He added a caption at the top of the first video that read simply: “We back [smiling sun emoji]”
In a statement to Billboard, Brian May, the VP of the Brushy Mountain Group, said that the venue’s capacity had been reduced from 10,000 to 4,000. “All local requirements were abided by for the recent concert, and numerous precautions were taken,” he noted. May’s statement also added that there were fewer than 1,000 people at the concert, and everyone’s temperature was checked before they were allowed into the show. In addition, “vendors and staff were advised to wear masks and gloves” — though it is not mandated — and hand sanitizer was provided to attendees.
While the reduced capacity allowed for some social distancing, May noted that the venue was unable to enforce the recommended distancing, which was posted around the space. “We are re-evaluating the series from top to bottom — from implementing further safety measures, to adding stanchions, to converting the space to drive-in style concerts, to postponing shows,” he added.
Rice’s reps have not yet responded to Billboard’s request for comment.
According to The Tennessean, officials in the state have been debating mandating and enforcing the use of face masks to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. The Nashville Board of Health recently voted to implement a mandate, with it going into effect June 28. Per the CDC’s numbers posted June 28, Tennessee has had a total of 40,172 cases of COVID-19 thus far, with 6,155 of them confirmed in the last seven days.
The day before the concert, Rice shared a video of himself practicing for the set in a studio. “Rehearsing for our first show back in four months,” he captioned the clip. “thank you Jesus.”
Since the global health crisis began, musicians and festivals around the world have canceled tours and dates to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Instead, artists have been offering livestreams from home to entertain and connect with fans. More recently, some musicians have performed drive-in concerts, with more being scheduled, to give music fans a live-show experience while allowing people to remain socially distanced.
Fellow country artist Chris Janson also came under criticism on social media after posting shots from his set at Gordy’s Hwy 30 Fest in Flier, Idaho Saturday night. The three-day festival, held at the Twin Falls Fairground, included more than 20 acts, according to its website, with Janson the biggest name. In two social media posts that Janson has since taken down, the crowd near the front of the stage seemed shoulder to shoulder with little to no social distancing. Asked for a comment from Janson, Janson’s label, Warner Music Nashville replied “Chris was one of two dozen performers to fulfill a contractual obligation after being told that last weekend’s event would adhere to all safety and social distancing protocols, as has been confirmed by the festival in its statement below: ‘The Hwy 30 Music Fest in Filer, ID, assured all performers and concert attendees they were safe and following all local guidelines.'” Billboard has reached out to the festival and is waiting to hear back. The festival’s site posted this footage of Janson performing on its Instagram with outreached hands visible at one point.