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Chainsmokers Draw Heat for Hamptons Drive-In Concert That NY Health Commissioner Calls ‘Public Health Threat’

Following social media reaction to a dancing crowd at a Chainsmokers concert, a health commissioner has raised concerns about the show, which organizers insist had social distancing enforced.

The Chainsmokers
John Salangsang/Variety

Where there’s smoke, there’s definitely the fire of social media reaction, at least, as the Chainsmokers are taking heat for a controversial charity fundraiser held in the Hamptons at a 100-acre lot transformed into a drive-in for the concert.

As a result of the concern over the “Safe & Sound” fundraiser, one state official has jumped in to demand answers. New York health commissioner Howard Zucker wrote to Southampton town supervisor Jay Schneiderman Monday saying he was “greatly disturbed” about the concert. “I am at a loss as to how the Town of Southampton could have issued a permit for such an event, how they believed it was legal and not an obvious public health threat,” Zucker wrote in the letter, which was excerpted by BuzzFeed News. Zucker suggested that at some point “it became clear violations were rampant.”

Video snippets posted on social media present a mixed bag, showing concertgoers dancing in close proximity to one another near the stage — albeit not in the shoulder-to-shoulder, packed conditions that prompted widespread outrage after being seen at recent general-admission concerts by Chase Rice, Chris Janson and Great White. The 2,000 attendees at the Hamptons show were asked to remain adjacent to their vehicles in designated parking areas, and concert organizers insist most or all did, although dancers were much more visible at the front of the stage than cars in videos that appeared. Photos and videos from the event show some attendees wearing masks, though they appear to be in the minority.

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Audience at Chainsmokers drive-in concert

The benefit was an elite event, price-wise, with per-car ticket prices starting at $1250, and the super VIP package topping out at $25,000. Proceeds were earmarked for No Kid Hungry, Southampton Fresh Air Home and the Children’s Medical Fund of New York.

In response to the backlash, event organizers In The Know Experiences and Invisible Noise released a statement elaborating on what they characterized as proper safety precautions. The statement said, in part. that the show “followed the guidelines created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. … Prior to the event, all guests were instructed to self-monitor their temperature daily for two weeks leading up to the event, maintaining a temperature below 99.5° F (37.5° C). …. Upon arrival, individuals within each car had their temperatures taken and were also provided complimentary face masks before driving to their designated 20′ x 20′ spot. Guests were also instructed that they would not be allowed to leave their designed spots for any reason other than to use the restroom facilities.”

According to one of the event organizers, In The Know Experience, there were dividers in the pit section, although they are only occasionally visible in the images attendees posted from the event.

Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon was the support act for the Chainsmokers in the guise of his alter-ego, EDM DJ D-Sol.

Drive-in concerts have become more common during the pandemic, including a series of recent Live Nation-sponsored shows in stadium or amphitheater concerts lots, headlined by Brad Paisley, Jon Pardi and Nelly, as well as tours by country, Christian and EDM artists in actual drive-in theaters around the South and Midwest. Up until now, the drive-in shows, with supposed greater enforcement of social distancing, have not drawn the same kind of scrutiny or scorn as standing-room-only shows that local promoters have put on.

The Chainsmokers are scheduled to hold similar events in Miami, Los Angeles, Nashville, Chicago and Atlanta.