In a video statement released on his social media accounts, country singer Chase Rice offered no apologies or clear regrets about a weekend concert that stirred outrage for its packed, no-social-distancing, mask-free crowd conditions. But he acknowledged that “a lot of people seeing that online had a big problem” with the appearance of the show, and he urged fans at his next concert to “please go by the rules… please go by the laws.”
Unlike his standing-room general-admission show in Tennessee Saturday, Rice’s next show is at a drive-in, as most of the bare handful of live concerts by name artists happening in recent weeks have been. “The biggest thing for all of us is the safer we are now, the quicker that we get to get to actual normal live shows, which I know we all want,” Rice said, in urging the audience at the next concert to stay near their vehicles.
There was no driving in Saturday for his show at at the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, where the audience looked downright Coachella-like in its shoulder-to-shoulder closeness and enthusiasm — at least as captured in video footage by Rice himself, which he posted to Instagram with the caption “We back.” Although the venue said the crowd was smaller than it appeared, at only about 1000 ticketholders, the festival-like look of the footage, at a time when coronavirus rates in that state and others are spiking, made Rice an instant social media target as his footage was passed along as a symbol of obliviousness to the still spreading disease.
But some fans defended Rice — and another country singer, Chris Janson, who was attacked for similar footage of a packed show in Idaho the same night — as someone being unfairly railroaded in a public overreaction to the coronavirus crisis. Perhaps in deference to those fans, Rice offered no indications Saturday’s show was unwise in anything other than appearance, and that, along with his seemingly putting the onus of safety at his next show on fan behavior, may do little to mollify his critics.
“What’s up y’all, Chase here. and I just want to address my show Saturday night,” he says in leading off the minute-long statement. “For those of you who don’t know, I had a show in east Tennessee, took a video of the concert — everybody had a blast. But then once I posted the video, a lot of people seeing that online had a big problem with how the show looked, how the show went down. And I understand there’s a lot of varying opinions and a lot of different opinions on COVID-19, how it works with live music crowds, and what all that looks like.
“My biggest thing is y’all,” he continued. “Y’all are why I get to write songs, y’all are why I get to tour the country, why I get to do live shows and sing these songs to you guys and you guys sing ‘em back. You guys are everything to me, so your safety is a huge, huge priority.
“So moving forward, I have a show in Ashland, Kentucky on Friday, and it’s a drive-in show. You can take your trucks, take your cars, you have your own space. You can get out of your cars, you can get out of your trucks and party with me. Please do —sing the songs — but stay in your own space; stay with the people you came with. And the biggest thing for all of us is the safer we are now, the quicker that we get to get to actual normal live shows, which I know we all want. So thank you guys for understanding. Please go by the rules. Please go by the laws on this Friday show coming up and the shows moving forward so we can get to regular shows soon enough. I love you guys, God bless you, and God bless country music.”
Meanwhile, the outdoor venue that hosted Rice’s show, the Historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, announced late Monday that it is canceling an upcoming concert by another country artist, Kip Moore.
“Kip Moore’s concert at Brushy scheduled for August 1, 2020 is canceled,” the venue said on its website. “We know there will be lots of disappointed fans, including us, but it’s for the best. Full refunds will be issued immediately to all current ticket holders.” In a statement on Sunday, venue execs had said they were reevaluating how to proceed with the handful of other concerts on the lineup for this summer, including the possibility of turning them into drive-in shows.
Janson, for his part, has not yet addressed his own jam-packed concert controversy on social media or elsewhere.
Attendance at Janson’s lesser publicized Idaho concert Saturday was said by sources on site to be around 2800, almost three times the official attendance figure for Rice’s Tennessee show. An attendee at the Hwy 30 Festival headlined by Janson said he saw only one mask over the course of the day amid thousands of attendees, on a vendor, and that at least some crew members working on the festival were asked to sign COVID-19 waivers.
A number of country artists have taken to their social media to take issue with the “we back” shows involving Rice and Janson.
One of those was hitmaker Kelsea Ballerini, who ripped into Rice in a tweet. “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,” Ballerini wrote Sunday. “@ChaseRiceMusic, we all want (and need) to tour. We just care about our fans and their families enough to wait.”
Maren Morris, for her part, retweeted other tweets taking issue with the shows. She then wondered aloud why her former tourmate Janson had blocked her on Twitter, sharing a screenshot of the blocked message. Janson responded by saying it had been an accident, a contention that was greeted with a good deal of skepticism on the service.