There’s Gonna Be a Concert in Arkansas Next Week
How long will take before concerts come return to our post-coronavirus world? If you live in Arkansas, it could as early as next week.
Billboard reports that Travis McCready, frontman for the country rock band Bishop Gunn, will perform next Friday, May 15 at TempleLive in Fort Smith (the interior of which you can see at the top of this post). Not counting that recent drive-in concert, this will be one of the first live performances to take place in the U.S. since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Of course, the venue is taking measures to make the event safe. For one thing, TempleLive will be sanitized with fog sprayers by an independent third party before the show. Additionally, the venue’s capacity will be reduced by 80%, from 1,100 to 229. Everyone who attends will be required to wear face masks, which will be sold at the show in the event that concertgoers don’t already have one. Furthermore, attendees will have their temperature taken when they arrive at the venue.
Meanwhile, the crowd itself will be socially distanced via what Ticketmaster has dubbed “fan pods” — groups of two to twelve seats that will only include fans who have been social distancing together, spaced six feet apart from all other pods. Here’s the seating chart for the show, which includes a GA section that will presumably remain unoccupied, keeping the performer at a very (very, very) safe distance from the fans:
There will also be a limit of ten people to each bathroom at any given time, and those bathrooms will be equipped with no touch soap and paper towel dispensers. Beverages will be available (I guess to drink with a straw under your mask?), but they’ll either be pre-packaged or have lids. And attendees will use one-way walk systems, monitored by staff, to get around the venue.
There is a catch, though: while Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has said that indoor venues could re-open for live shows, that directive doesn’t take effect until May 18… three days after this show. Furthermore, venues are supposed to limit their audience to socially distanced crowds of fifty people or less, which means that, if this show sells out, there will still be 179 attendees too many to meet the guidelines. The venue tells Billboard that they don’t believe this will be an issue, however, “given the Governor’s history of amending directives and orders once presented with additional information.”
While I certainly understand people’s desire to get back out and enjoy live music again, this seems, well… dumb. I just don’t think one night of being able to go to a concert again is worth jumping the gun and endangering lives. I’m also quite confused as to why the venue thinks they can take such liberties with an order handed down by their state’s governor. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that a) seeing a show in a venue that’s 80% empty might be odd and b) the economics of the thing are pretty wonky — tickets are twenty bucks a pop, which means if the show sells out, they’ll make $4,580. Even if you add in any money they make from beverage and/or mask sales, I can’t imagine that will cover the cost of paying the performer and the venue staff.
It’ll be interesting to see if this show actually takes place and, assuming it does, how it goes. I don’t think we’ll be looking at TempleLive as trendsetters, though.