The news Wednesday of a strict ban impacting travel from Europe to the U.S. has triggered intense confusion among American artists abroad, with some facing financial hardships as they cut tours short and scramble to find a way home before restrictions take effect Friday.
Just hours after President Donald Trump announced sweeping limitations on travel between the U.S. and Europe for the next 30 days, Mackenzie Scott, who performs as Torres, posted a plea to fans on her social media accounts asking for help securing last-minute flights back to New York from Europe, where she is supporting her new album, Silver Tongue.
“I’m asking for help getting home guys,” Scott wrote in a post that also included links to her Venmo, Paypal and Patreon accounts. “I’m going to lose every penny I made on tour booking emergency flights for my band. Thank you in advance. I’ve never experienced anything like this. Please be well everyone.”
Many artists scheduled to be in Europe this spring have already canceled tours after travel restrictions and event cancellations due to coronavirus concerns sharply escalated this week. But others, like Scott, who were already abroad, have found themselves in the throes of confusion and logistical nightmares as governments tightened measures to contain the outbreak.
“My band I are stuck in Amsterdam tonight, planning to fly to Moscow tomorrow night, and catching a connecting flight into NYC which should ostensibly land on Saturday,” Scott tells Billboard. “We’re all afraid. Our incomes are becoming obliterated before our eyes, and even scarier is the prospect of not being able to get home before everything shuts down entirely.”
The ripple effects of the new travel policy moved quickly throughout the touring world, prompting acts like indie rock band Big Thief and pianist Kelly Moran to return to the U.S. amidst show cancellations.
“My flights home were eerily empty — full rows had no people in them,” says Moran, who flew back from Prague via Oslo Thursday after having the rest of her European tour canceled. “The airports had a surreal, quiet calm to them, and it was oddly easier to get through them — much more than I anticipated. The only truly annoying part was the horde of aggressively anxious Americans at my departure gate in Oslo scrambling to get on the flight. I understand everyone is panicking now, but I’ve accepted that this is beyond our control now.”
Initially announced as a blanket ban on all travel to the U.S. from Europe, the new policy was later clarified as applying to only non-U.S. citizens in Europe. But with a domino effect of border closures and bans on public gatherings sweeping the region, musicians and their crews are dropping everything to return home against a shrinking window.
“Our bus was one of the last transportations to get over the Czech border,” says Sebastian Danzig, guitarist in the L.A. rock band Palaye Royale. “We wouldn’t have been able to get out of Prague. It would’ve been a nightmare.”
Palaye Royale made a last-minute call to return home just hours before Trump announced the travel ban, after arriving at their venue in Prague only to find out that that show, and subsequent shows in Vienna and Budapest, were canceled due to restrictions on public gatherings. “Our last show was in Poland and we realized we were the last band playing in Warsaw — the whole city was shut down. Once we got to Prague, that’s when I was like, ‘We need to get out of here right now.’”
While the group, which was able to find flights out of Paris on Friday, is “crushed” to cut short a nearly sold-out four-month tour, Danzig says the general public in the U.S. doesn’t seem to grasp how sharply the situation has deteriorated in Europe.
“You’re getting woken up on the bus every morning at the border by a guy in a hazmat suit who’s there to take your temperature and is ripping up your bunk,” he says. “It’s like a horror film.”