Musicians Speak Up About Struggle To Keep Fans Safe


Singers Fred Durst and Jason Isbell are speaking up about the challenges of keeping fans safe as touring resumes while some people continue to refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccination.

“In short, the system is still very flawed,” Limp Bizkit frontman Durst told Billboard. “Even if the performers, crews, staff, and promoters do their best to ensure safety on and behind the stage, that doesn’t ensure the safety of the audience as a whole.

“We are all in this together, and we all – individually and as a whole – have to make our best efforts to be as responsible and proactive as possible moving forward to combat and stop spreading COVID.”

Limp Bizkit pulled the plug on its show last Friday in New Jersey only about an hour before it was scheduled to begin and then announced all remaining August dates have been cancelled. No reason was given but, in a statement, the band said it made the decision “out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of the band, crew and most of all the fans.”

Fall Out Boy pulled out of a several shows on the Hella Mega Tour with Green Day and Weezer last week due to a positive COVID-19 test within their circle. Lynyrd Skynyrd said it cancelled four concerts after guitarist Rickey Medlocke tested positive for COVID-19. And, last month, Foo Fighters scrapped a concert in Los Angeles when someone on its team tested positive.

On Tuesday, Stevie Nicks said she was cancelling all of her scheduled 2021 performances. “These are challenging times with challenging decisions that have to be made,” Nicks, 73, wrote in a message shared on social media. “I want everyone to be safe and healthy and the rising Covid cases should be of concern to all of us."

Isbell told fans on Aug. 9 he is “requiring proof of vaccination or a current negative test to attend all our shows, indoors or out. If the venue won’t allow that, we won’t play.”

(Last month, Eric Clapton – who is fully vaccinated – took the opposite approach. “I will not perform on any stage where there is a discriminated audience present,” the 76-year-old rocker wrote in a message on Telegram. “Unless there is provision made for all people to attend, I reserve the right to cancel the show.”)

Isbell’s Wednesday night show with Lucinda Williams in Houston was cancelled because, according to Isbell’s label, “the venue was not willing to comply with the band’s updated Health and Safety standards.”

In a statement shared on social media, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion insisted it “fully supports” Isbell’s COVID-19 policy but could not comply due to timing. “To implement a major change in policy such as what is requested will take more time than we have,” it claimed.

Isbell said the statement is false. “The venue owner flat-out refused to even attempt to implement the policy,” he tweeted.

Sally MacDonald, a local Fox news anchor – who did not disclose that she is the daughter of the Pavilion’s CEO Jerry MacDonald – defended the venue in a tweet. “The pavilion statement doesn’t say they weren’t willing to comply. It says they couldn’t implement a change like that on short notice. Like everywhere else they are short staffed, too.”

COVID-19 Music Updates

On Tuesday, Quebec's minister of health Christian Dubé announced that as of Sept. 1, vaccine passports will be required to access bars, restaurants and public events like concerts and festivals "to avoid another lockdown."

In an interview with MSNBC, Isbell said he believes the people who work at all levels of the live music business understand the need to be responsible.

“All the response that I’ve gotten from people in the business has been positive because they understand that we could go back to not working at all,” he said. “A lot of these smaller venues, they aren’t going to re-open if they go through another round of shutdowns.”

Isbell said they are up against “governors of certain states who want to kowtow to their political base and try to make people think that their freedom is being encroached upon.”

He added: “I'm all for freedom but I think if you're dead, you don't have any freedoms at all so it’s probably important to stay alive before you start questioning your liberty.”

Citing an oft-repeated phrase from the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Isbell pointed out: “It’s ‘life’ and then it’s ‘liberty’ and then it’s ‘the pursuit of happiness.’ Those are in order of priority.”

Queen guitarist Brian May has also addressed the refusal of some to protect themselves and others. “Anti-vax people, I’m sorry, I think they’re fruitcakes,” the 74-year-old musician told The Independent.

“There’s plenty of evidence to show that vaccination helps. On the whole they’ve been very safe. There’s always going to be some side effect in any drug you take, but to go around saying vaccines are a plot to kill you, I'm sorry, that goes in the fruitcake jar for me."

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