Country singer Chase Rice’s awkward, intimate performance for his ex-girlfriend and Bachelor lead Peter Weber feels like it happened a lifetime ago. Unfortunately for everyone taking social distancing and mask-wearing seriously, Rice is playing for much larger audiences these days — and other country stars, including Kelsea Ballerini, are calling him out for putting his fans at risk.
Rice shared footage of the concert (and an unmasked and unseated crowd) to his Instagram Story on Saturday night. “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. “We all want (and need) to tour. We just care about our fans and their families enough to wait.”
Ballerini wasn’t the only artist to criticize Rice’s decision. “I’m shaking I’m so livid,” tweeted “Black Like Me” singer Mickey Guyton. “He doesn’t give a shit about anyone or anything but his pocket book and that is clear in this video.” Maren Morris responded to Guyton's Tweet with some dismayed emojis.
In March, Rice shared his thoughts on the virus through a song, very appropriately titled “Dear Corona.” With lyrics like “Dear Corona, you don’t know the heart of a country fan / You don’t know that we don’t give a damn” and “Yeah, we gonna show up, hold our drinks high, sing them songs about trucks and beer / You’re gonna be met with a big f*** you, cause you ain’t welcome here,” Rice seems less than concerned about social distancing.
Brian May, a representative for the Tennessee venue that hosted the concert, said “numerous precautions” were taken into account before Saturday’s show. “All guests were given temperature checks prior to entering the venue and free hand sanitizer was provided to everyone at entry. All vendors and staff were advised to wear masks and gloves when interacting with guests, and bandanas were available for purchase on-site,” May told Variety.
According to the CDC, any event that causes individuals to stand less than six feet apart — and any event that welcomes crowds from outside a local idea — is considered very high risk. May clarified that Rice’s concert was capped at 1,000 and that there was “ample space” for fans to spread out, but based on Rice’s video, that didn’t exactly end up happening.
Tennessee began reopening at the end of May, and Governor Bill Lee’s office announced that live music would be allowed, with certain guidelines enforced. However, the state has since seen a massive uptick in COVID-19 cases: the Tennessee Department of Health reported a record number of 1,410 new cases on Friday, the highest single-day increase yet.
Experts also agree that artists should hold off on concerts and shows. Former Obamacare advisor Dr. Zeke Emanuel told The New York Times that concert venues won’t (or shouldn’t) reopen until fall 2021 at the earliest. Peter Bach, the director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes, echoed this statement.
“Having gone to [concerts and festivals], I don’t know how you’d keep people from exposing the virus to one another,” Bach told CNBC in May. “And I don’t know how you could contract-trace there without a lot of intrusion.”
Another country artist, Chris Janson, also shared footage from a concert this weekend. After pushback, he deleted the videos from his Instagram.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.