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Country singers criticize Chase Rice as ‘selfish’ for concert in front of hundreds in Tennessee

“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. @ChaseRiceMusic,” Kelsea Ballerini tweeted to her million followers. “We all want (and need) to tour. We just care about our fans and their families enough to wait.”

Mickey Guyton responded and included Rice’s Twitter handle: “An absolute selfish act. Shame on him.” Maren Morris replied to one of Guyton’s tweets and simply said, “No masks,” with head-exploding and frowning-face emoji.

Bobby Bones, the format’s most powerful radio personality, tweeted the video and wrote: “Aside from the obvious … probably also heavy liability here. Just talked to two different attorneys about this.”

The concert took place at Historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, a former prison turned tourist destination that has a distillery, paranormal tours and a concert series called Live at Brushy — it’s located in Petros, Tenn., a 2½-hour drive from Nashville. Brian May, vice president of the Brushy Mountain Group, said in a statement Sunday evening that fewer than 1,000 people attended Rice’s show, even though the venue’s maximum capacity is 10,000, so there was “ample space in the outdoor lawn area for fans to spread out to their own comfort level.” The venue abided by all local requirements and “numerous precautions were taken,” he said, including temperature checks for guests, free hand sanitizer, and masks and gloves for staff.

However, he added, in the wake of Rice’s concert, the organizers are “reevaluating the series from top to bottom,” including further safety measures, changing the setup to drive-in concerts or postponing shows entirely. “We were unable to further enforce the physical distancing recommended in the signage posted across the property and are looking into future alternative scenarios that further protect the attendees, artists and their crews and our employees,” May said. The next Live at Brushy show is Sawyer Brown on July 18, followed by Kip Moore on Aug. 1.

Adrienne Brown, a Nashville resident who attended the show, said the experience was “wonderful” — in her view, Rice’s Instagram story videos made the audience look more packed than it was in person. While a crowd of people did stand around the stage, she said, she and her friends mostly stayed in the back of the lawn.

Brown said she understands why some say it’s too soon to hold a concert, but she was comfortable with the fact that it was an open-air space, and fans had the option to social distance. “The people that chose to go up to the front, that’s who Kelsea [Ballerini] needs to be talking to,” she said.

Still, the images of people standing so close together in the middle of a pandemic unnerved many observers. Chris Janson also posted Instagram videos of a big crowd at Gordy’s Hwy 30 Music Fest in Idaho on Saturday night and deleted them after he started to see criticism. He apparently blocked Morris on Twitter (“ummmmmm what did I DO?!” she tweeted, with three cry-laughing emoji), as well as Whitney Pastorek, a Nashville manager who previously worked for Janson’s management company and tweeted that the scene at Janson’s concert was “reprehensible.”

“Our industry was a shining light of what happens when people place the well-being of society over their own pocketbooks. We did it right and didn’t complain,” Pastorek wrote on Instagram, referring to the many Nashville acts who canceled tours this year. “But even if it meant I could earn back every lost dollar and every second of lost health insurance I would not work with an act who decided to jeopardize the health of their fans (and their fans’ families and communities) the way Chase Rice and Chris Janson did last night. It’s abhorrent.”

Janson’s and Rice’s respective record labels did not return requests for comment. In March, Rice vented his frustration about canceled tours with a Facebook post.

“If it were up to me I wouldn’t cancel one damn show, but it ain’t. Today a lot of tours and shows got canceled or moved. I’m not throwing blame to any promoters or decision makers on this, they gotta protect themselves and the well being of people, so I get all sides of this deal. I personally, choose not live scared, especially of something that I can’t really control,” he wrote. “THANK YOU to fans all across the world. This thing has made me realize that there is no music without y’all. If I’ve gotta break it down to just me and a guitar on the bed of a truck and play to whoever shows up I’ll do it, love y’all.”

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