On Monday, Missouri Governor Mike Parson officially gave the okay for concerts to return to parts of the state — though few venues or artists were ready to make the risky move in the middle of the pandemic. Similarly, beginning on May 18th, the state of Arkansas will allow live events to resume, and already one concert is on the books.
Bishop Gunn singer/guitarist Travis McCready has announced a limited-capacity concert taking place at TempleLive in Fort Smith, Arkansas next Friday. Perhaps a preview of what’s to come for future live events across the country, Ticketmaster is listing tickets broken down into “fan pods,” blocks of seats set six feet apart that must be purchased in groups of two to 12. The venue boasts a 1,100-person capacity, but has slashed it by 80%, with only 229 seats available.
In addition to keeping socially distant, all attendees will have their temperature taken before entering the venue. Face masks, which will be for sale at the event, will be required for all staff and fans. Bathrooms will be limited to 10 people at a time, with certain sinks and toilets closed to maintain distance, and all soap and paper towel dispensers being no-touch. Beverages served on site will either be prepackaged or “have lids.”
What’s more, one-way walk ways will be patrolled by venue staff, and staffers “will be actively wiping down touch points in [the] venue and restrooms.” TempleLive will also be sanitized with fog sprayers by an independent third party ahead of the show’s start.
It’s worth noting that the concert is scheduled to take place on May 15th — three days prior to the loosening of Arkansas’ shut-down order. What’s more, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson’s directive stipulates that venues should only have 50 people or fewer in attendance. So how is this concert actually happening in the first place? Apparently, Hutchinson’s a well-known pushover, who changes his own orders when presented with competing information. As TempleLive’s Mike Brown told Billboard:
“We actually just got off a conversation with the state health department. The governor has done a great job with his administration and how he has handled this. If you are a church, there are no restrictions on how many people you can have inside as long as they follow CDC guidelines and stay six feet apart. So our position is, a public gathering is a public gathering regardless of the reason, whether you are going to go to a quilting event, a church, or a concert. Tell me the difference, because in our opinion it is discriminatory.”
Other requirements of Hutchinson’s order include hand sanitizer at all exits and entrances, and any lines to be marked or monitored to keep people six feet apart. We’ll see if Brown will follow those guidelines or try to talk the governor out of them as well.
Some would say any cautionary orders regarding the return of concerts and mass gatherings aren’t cautionary enough. At least one expert has said live music events shouldn’t reasonably be expected to return until 2021, while Denmark has been trying out drive-in concerts.
Interestingly, Bishop Gunn announced a hiatus back in February, before the start of the coronavirus lockdown. “It is with heavy hearts and sadness we must announce that as of today, Bishop Gunn is suspending all future activity including tour dates and new music releases,” the group wrote on Facebook. “The band is going through some internal issues right now that requires our full attention and we need the time to sort through all of it. We don’t want our fans, friends and family to speculate on the future so we have decided to halt everything for right now.”