If Travis McCready’s first socially-distanced concert doesn’t happen on Friday, it will on Saturday.
Despite Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announcing a cease and desist letter would be sent to TempleLive in Fort Smith over its planned May 15 concert with McCready, the venue tells Billboard it still plans move forward with the show. According to guidelines set forth by the governor’s office, indoor concert venues in the state are allowed to reopen with a capacity of 50 or fewer on Monday. McCready’s show is set for three days prior to the governor’s allowance and with 229 seats available for the socially-distanced show.
“You can’t just arbitrarily determine when the restrictions are lifted. That is something that is done based upon a public health requirement,” Hutchinson said at a press conference on Tuesday. “Even if you are going to have 250 people at a venue, you still have to have a specific plan that would be approved by the Department of Health. None of that was done in this case. It is out of time.”
On Wednesday (May 13), the governor doubled down on his previous assertions, stating that he could “utilize local law enforcement” if it gets that far.
Representatives for TempleLive have confirmed to Billboard that they plan to move forward with Friday’s performance and on Facebook Live on Wednesday called the governor’s actions discriminatory since churches and other religious venues are allowed to host large gatherings without capacity limitations.
“Churches are going on with no capacity limits at all. It is completely different story in this area with the statistics and everything, which is why it didn’t seem like a such a big deal a few weeks ago when Mike [Brown of TempleLive] called me,” McCready tells Billboard, saying the press coverage outside TempleLive looked like “the O.J. trial.”
In addition to Friday’s show, TempleLive has scheduled a second Travis McCready concert for Saturday at Tall Pines Distillery in Pineville, Missouri. The location is less than a two hour drive from Fort Smith, Arkansas, and will sell up to 400 tickets.
“We have this big beautiful open field and it just worked out where [McCready] could come and we could host it. We don’t get a lot of big-name people in our area. It might be the only time we can get someone of that magnitude,” Tall Pines Distillery owner Tara Cook tells Billboard. “When [TempleLive] called and Travis could come, I said, ‘Absolutely. Let’s make it happen.’”
The distillery opened in late January and was only in operation for eight weeks before it was shut down due to the spread of the coronavirus. Since shutting down to the public, Tall Pines staff has been coming in daily to fulfill large orders for hand sanitizer.
“We have spoken to the local officials and I just got off the phone a minute ago with the Mayor of Pineville,” says Cook. “The head health department lady was there for the state and she says, ‘You guys are doing everything that needs to be done.'”
Cook says they will be bringing in outdoor bathrooms that will be spread apart with hand sanitizing stations. Drink stations will also be distanced to avoid large groupings and fans can bring their own seating.
“Our field is so large, 400 people isn’t going to look like that many people,” says Cook. “We are taking all of those precautions.”
As of May 4, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson gave the okay for concerts to reopen in the state as long as “social distancing requirements” are met. A representative from Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services clarified for Billboard that concerts do not have to adhere to the same occupancy limitations as retail businesses, but event organizers are expected to keep concertgoers six feet or more apart to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
While the distillery had originally planned to host outdoor events including concerts and festivals, McCready’s Saturday show will be its first. The Bishop Gunn frontman will be performing on a 32-foot flatbed trailer in the rural area. The two hour event will begin at 3 p.m. and feature the same lineup scheduled for the night before with Lauren Brown opening.
TempleLive will hold a press conference Thursday to respond to questions about the May 15 Arkansas show.