Dead and Company Cancels Playing in the Sand Festival Entirely Following John Mayer’s Exit (Updated)

"Additional COVID-19 cases amongst multiple artists and staff" were cited as a reason for canceling in a late Thursday statement from CID Presents.

john mayer grateful dead band
Danny Clinch

UPDATED: The group Dead and Company announced Thursday that its Playing in the Sand festival, slated to begin Friday in Cancun, has been canceled entirely. The move comes just a day after it was announced that frontman John Mayer was pulling out of the first weekend due to his testing positive for COVID-19 on the eve of departing for Mexico.

Many of the passholders who bought packages that included hotel stays and airfare were already in Mexico or on their way Thursday when the news came, first via an Instagram post from the band, and later from a statement from CID Presents that included refund information. While the Dead and Company statement could have been taken as indicating that the cancellation was merely out of an abundance of caution, CID clarified in its separate release that the fest being called off was “due to additional COVID-19 cases amongst multiple artists and staff.”

CID said that that everyone with a package for the festival’s first weekend Jan. 7-10 would receive a full refund, and that anyone already at the Moon Palace resort or still planning to get there could stay for the weekend and still have their money refunded in full. Anyone booked for the second weekend, Jan. 13-16, can either stay home and receive a full refund or still elect to go to the resort and be refunded minus a flat rate of $600 a night for the stay, regardless of group size.

Said CID’s statement, “It is with very heavy hearts that we must cancel both Dead & Company Playing in the Sand 2022 event weekends, due to additional COVID-19 cases amongst multiple artists and staff. Despite strict Health & Safety protocols, these unprecedented times have forced us to make a difficult decision, and we fully understand the inconvenience and disappointment it may cause.”

Earlier, Dead and Company has posted on Instagram: “With much sadness and after great consideration of every possible scenario, the Playing in the Sand shows in Riviera Cancun on January 7-10 and January 13-16 have now been canceled by CID Presents due to the spiking COVID-19 cases. Dead & Company and CID Presents tried everything possible to bring normalcy and to deliver a great experience and amazing music, but with each day it became increasingly clear that canceling is the correct thing to do for the fans and for our crew. … See you soon, hug your loved ones, stay safe and be kind.”

On Wednesday, Mayer’s exit had been announced on social media, although it was only declared that he would not be participating in the first weekend, leaving open the possibility that he might be cleared to perform in the second half of the two-weekend festival. That announcement tried to find a silver lining in Mayer’s absence, promising that the lineup change for the Grateful Dead spinoff group would result in set lists with more rarely revived material.

Mayer was the second Dead and Company member to have bowed out of the shows. Earlier, drummer Bill Kreutztmann had announced he would not be making the festival, either, citing a doctor’s advice. Kreutztmann had recently acknowledged health issues after exiting a fall Hollywood Bowl concert midway through the show.

Even before Mayer and Kreutztmann took their leaves from the band lineup, CID had been under pressure to allow passholders to receive refunds if they no longer wished to attend the festival, given the unforeseen spread of the omicron variant. A Change.org list asking CID to make refunds available was signed by thousands, although it’s not clear how many of those signing were actually ticketholders. Although the packages had been advertised as nonrefundable, CID ultimately gave in and established a 48-hour window Dec. 29-31 in which anyone could ask for and receive a full refund. Nonetheless, it was evident that many still wanted to opt out after that window closed, especially after Mayer’s exit.

So far, CID has not allowed for refunds for any of its other star-driven festivals happening in Mexico in the coming weeks, although a similar Change.org petition has been set up for Hootiefest, currently still set to go down Jan. 26-29 with Hootie and the Blowfish, Barenaked Ladies, Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors and other bands.

Other CID festivals on the horizon in Mexico include Luke Bryan’s “Crash My Playa” festival Jan. 19-22, set to include performances by country figures like Dustin Lynch, Ashley McBryde, Jimmie Allen, LoCash and Lainey Wilson. Further down the line are festivals centered around Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds and Phish in February and My Morning Jacket in March,