Country singer Chase Rice drew the ire of the music industry and potentially put hundreds of his fans at risk when he played a packed concert in East Tennessee on Saturday. Nearly 1,000 people were in attendance, standing shoulder to shoulder, with not a face mask to be seen. Rice encouraged the audience to sing along, and even marveled at the size of the crowd in a post-show Instagram video.
Understandably, many of his fellow musicians were angered by images and video from the concert, worrying that it could exacerbate the spread of coronavirus and delay their own return to touring (which is a chief source of income for many artists). “The people in this audience, along with the presenters of this show, are assuring that conscientious musicians won’t be able to work their jobs for a while, and that conscientious audiences won’t be able to see shows for the foreseeable, and to be blunt, that fucking sucks,” The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle tweeted in response to the concert.
On Monday, Rice finally addressed the incident, but seemed relatively unfazed by the criticism. In an Instagram video, Rice says, “I understand that there’s a lot of varying opinions, 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. 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 them back. You guys are everything to me, so your safety is a huge priority.”
Rice may say safety is a huge priority for him, but he never apologizes for putting his fans at risk. Nor is he canceling the upcoming tour dates he has scheduled. Instead, in the video, Rice proceeds to promote his Friday night concert at a Kentucky drive-in, while offering some half-assed pleas to maintain social distancing practices.
“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,” Rice remarks.
Rice has never been one to take coronavirus particularly seriously. When the pandemic first broke out in March, he responded with a tongue-in-cheek song called “Dear Corona”, seemingly mocking the severity of the virus. Four months later, over 130,000 Americans have died.
For the sake of music fans and touring musicians everywhere, don’t be Chase Rice. Buy a mask, practice social distancing, and follow the guidance of health professionals, so that all of us can return to the pit in the near future, without the threat of potentially infecting those around us.