Chase Rice has no regrets over controversial live show during coronavirus

Despite the backlash pitted against him for playing a concert in front of nearly 1,000 people in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic over the weekend, Chase Rice — the up-and-coming American country singer — neither apologized or expressed regret for the event in an Instagram response to the controversy on Monday.

The concert in question took place on Saturday, June 27, at the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, small-town Tennessee, and completely avoided all social distancing regulations set in place to help mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Rice, 34, shared a video of the crowd to his Instagram story on the night of the gig with the caption “We back,” before he was bombarded with criticism all across social media.

The highly contested concert took place only in the same week that health officials reported the biggest one-day jump in people testing positive for COVID-19, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Responding to the widespread disapproval via IGTV, Rice noted that his fans “had a blast” at the unsafe concert before claiming their safety “is a huge, huge priority,” for him.

“My biggest thing is y’all,” he said. “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,” he added.

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While the musician also acknowledged that many people “had a big problem” with the video he shared and “how the show looked,” he avoided any sort of apology to the fans left at risk.

“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,” he added.

In an effort to prevent that in the future, Rice said his next show — in Ashland, Ky., on July 3 — would be a drive-in show.

He said: “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.”

“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 concluded ironically.

Despite the controversy, the owner of the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary told AP that the concert was approved by both city and county officials.

“We are reevaluating the series from the top to bottom following the inaugural show on June 27 — from implementing further safety measures to adding stanchions to converting the space to drive-in style concerts to postponing shows,” said co-owner Brian May (not the Queen guitarist).

May said the venue has a normal capacity of 10,000, but only 954 tickets were sold in advance and state guidelines allowed for 50 per cent capacity in an outdoor venue. Additionally, he said that they had asked all guests to wear masks and used signs which encouraged social distancing techniques.

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In wake of the news, people have not only been criticizing Rice for the quality of his music and his decision to go through with the unsafe Tennessee concert, but his fans too for risking their lives simply to see him perform.

Even three-time Grammy Award nominee Kelsea Ballerini had something to say about the Ready Set Roll singer.

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,” wrote Ballerini.

@ChaseRiceMusic, We all want (and need) to tour. We just care about our fans and their families enough to wait,” the fellow American country singer concluded.

Here’s what some other angered Twitter users had to say:

“Can you imagine testing positive for COVID-19 because you went to a chase rice concert?” tweeted another user.

“Who even is Chase Rice!?” they added.

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Unfortunately, Rice wasn’t the only country singer who avoided social distancing regulations over the weekend to perform in front of a crowd.

On Saturday night, 34-year-old Chris Janson played an outdoor music festival in Filer, Idaho, whose governor decided to keep the state at stage 4 of reopening due to a recent surge in infections, according to AP.

Festival organizers “assured all performers and concert attendees they were safe and following all local guidelines,” a label representative for Janson said in a statement.

A statement from the Highway 30 Music Fest said that they added more bleachers so fans could spread out and be socially distant, although a recap video on their social media account showed some crowding at the front of stages and hardly any people wearing masks.

“Chris was one of two dozen performers to fulfill a contractual obligation after being told that last weekend’s event would adhere to all safety and social distancing protocols,” the statement read.

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With files from the Associated Press

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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