Chase Rice responds to criticism over concert with packed crowds


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Country artist Chase Rice has responded to criticism about the crowd at his concert in East Tennessee last weekend.

Rice performed Saturday at the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, which is a former prison that now hosts events in Morgan County.

Videos posted to social media show a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd with no signs of social distancing or masks.

Fellow artists and industry insiders criticized Rice and country artist Chris Janson, who also performed at an outdoor festival in Idaho.

MORE: Music City musicians upset after fellow artists perform for packed crowds

The venue said fewer than 1,000 tickets were sold in advance and guests were asked to wear masks and encouraged to social distance.

Rice posted a message on Instagram:

“Once I posted the video, a lot of people seeing that online had a big problem with how the show looked, how the show went down. I understand there are 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 huge priority. Moving forward, I have a show in Ashland, Kentucky on Friday and it’s a drive-in show. 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. And the biggest thing for all of us is the safest we are now, the quicker we get to get to actual normal live shows which I know we all want.”

Chase Rice

Morgan County officials told News 2 numerous precautions were taken:

“Brushy Mtn. State Pen complied with all local requirements for the recent concert, and numerous precautions were taken. This included temperature checks of people attending the concert and providing hand sanitizer to attendees. Brushy Mtn Capacity is 10,000, Brushy limited ticket sales to 4,000 and actual attendance was less than 1,000. Attendance size was well within the CDC and state guidelines. In addition this was an outdoor event , held in a 3-acre field. Numerous signs informed guest of social distancing guidelines. We will work with Brushy Mtn State Pen as they are reevaluating their events going forward to determine the viability of future events at Brushy.

Morgan County EMA

The historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary opened as a visitors attraction in July of 2018 and features a museum, distillery and restaurant.

“We are reevaluating the series from the top to bottom following the inaugural show on June 27 — from implementing further safety measures, to adding stanchions, to converting the space to drive-in style concerts, to postponing shows,” said Brian May, who co-owns the former Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, where the concert was held.

May said the venue has a normal capacity of 10,000, but only 954 tickets were sold in advance and state guidelines allowed for 50% capacity in an outdoor venue. May also said they asked all guests to wear masks and had signs encouraging social distance.

Sawyer Brown is scheduled to perform next at the former prison on Saturday, July 18.

Tennessee reported its highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases on Friday.

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