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Chase Rice, Chris Janson criticized over weekend concerts

Both singers performed in different parts of the country on June 27th

Country singers Chase Rice and Chris Janson are taking heat from industry peers and citizens for holding concerts over the weekend for not adhering to CDC guidelines. Rice performed to a crowd of one thousand in East Tennessee while Janson played to a crowd of 2800 in Idaho. Neither performance appears to follow social distancing and face masks guidelines the government has set forth following COVID-19.

Rice posted a video on his social media of non mask-wearing shoulder to shoulder concertgoers at the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, located 140 east of Nashville, with the caption “We back.” By Sunday, he was receiving criticism from fans and industry peers alike as the news made media headlines around the world.

Janson shared video on social media as well, receiving less attention as the videos have since been removed.

Kelsea Ballerini, Jason Isbell and Mickey Guyton have all criticized Rice for performing.

“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,” Ballerini shares. “Chase Rice, we all want (and need) to tour. We just care about our fans and their families enough to wait.”

Isbell got a little more personal, stating, “Boy y’all really throwing the term ‘country star’ around today. It’s like the adult film indstry, they aren’t all ‘stars.’ Hell, some are so broke they’ve decided to do shows this weekend regardless of what might happen to their non-isolated, maskless audience!”

Guyton reminded people that cases are spiking across some states, including Tennessee. “This is happening in Tennessee where cases are spiking y’all,” she writes. “Jesus help us.”

Variety spoke with Brian May, VP of the Brushy Mountain Group, who hosted the concert, who says, “all local requirements were abided by for the recent concert, and numerous precautions were taken.” He did state that different measures would be considered for future concerts that are scheduled in the coming weeks including performances by Kip Moore, Jamey Johnson and Sawyer Brown.

“We drastically reduced our maximum venue capacity of 10,000 to 4,000 maximum capacity (lower than the state’s advisement of 50%) with less than 1,000 in attendance Saturday night, providing ample space in the outdoor lawn area for fans to spread out to their own comfort level,” May says. “All guests were given temperature checks prior to entering the venue and free hand sanitizer was provided to everyone at entry. All vendors and staff were advised to wear masks and gloves when interacting with guests, and bandanas were available for purchase on-site.”

He continues, “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. We are reevaluating the series from the top to bottom — from implementing further safety measures, to adding stanchions, to converting the space to drive-in style concerts, to postponing shows.”

Janson’s backlash appears to be more from the fans and journalists more than the artists themselves. One concertgoer tells Variety that only one person was seen wearing a mask the entire day, while a former associate for his management company called his actions “reprehensible.”

“Oh look, Chris Janson also doesn’t care about the health of his fans!” Whitey Pastorek shares. “I used to work for his management company but they laid me off in April so now I can come right out and say that this is reprehensible, yay!”

Nashville-based journalist Marissa Moss cities gender inequality as the reason Janson will still have success after this.

“Just remember, Janson’s still gonna have a number one for ‘Done’ after this, despite endangering the health of his fans, their family & the public at large, but one of the greatest country artists of all time got shunned from radio for saying “Follow Your Arrow,” she writes about Kacey Musgraves’ lack of radio support.

In March, Rice tweeted his frustrations about the shutdowns. “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 [to] live scared, especially of something that I can’t really control.” That post has since been deleted.

Neither artist nor their teams have publicly spoken about the controversy as of press time.