Chase Rice isn't the only country singer receiving criticism for playing a show that looked decidedly pre-coronavirus era this weekend. While he was playing to a packed, maskless crowd in Tennessee, Chris Janson was performing at Filer, Idaho's Hwy 30 Music Festival, to an audience that seemed to be making no effort to socially distance or mitigate possible COVID-19 spread.
Janson, who has a song about coronavirus called "Put Me Back to Work" that includes the lyrics, "Open up the doors and fill the seats / 'Cause people still gotta eat," shared a video to his Instagram of the show's crowd, then deleted it after backlash began, as the Washington Post points out. Unlike Rice, he hasn't commented directly on the controversy, but Hwy 30's organizer, Gordy Schroeder, spoke to Billboard about it.
Schroeder told Billboard the festival took precautions, including giving attendees free face masks and gloves, telling them to use hand sanitizer, and disinfecting the stage, equipment, and front rail between acts. The importance of social distancing was also related, he said, but "when Chris Janson got on, [the audience] came forward," he said. "They came up and he put on one hell of a performance."
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As the audience collected toward the front of the stage, seeing as it was the festival's third day, Schroeder says he figured attendees knew the safety guidelines by now and made their own choices with that knowledge. “How I kind of see it, and I hate to be this way, people were allowed to protest and riot. And we saw where supposedly that doesn't cause a bump [in COVID-19 cases]," he says. "These people weren't rioting. They weren't being bad. All they were doing was enjoying music and wanting to live... They were enjoying themselves and loving on one another and enjoying music. And if it's not OK to do that, but it's okay to riot and it's okay to protest everything, then I went and fought for this country for the wrong reasons, I guess.”
The Idaho Statesman reports that the state is one of many experiencing a surge in new coronavirus cases, with last week's tally exceeding that of the entire month of May.