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Music venues reopen in certain American states

The states of Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma are the first to give the go ahead to live shows again, as an uneven reopening process takes place across the United States.

Around half of America’s states have begun a significant reopening of their economies and a return to public life, with live music venues among those to get back to business in a handful of places.

The governor of Missouri, Mike Parson, released a plan last week signalling that live events, including concerts, were allowed to reopen this week, provided that seating is spaced out according to social distancing requirements, with a distance of 6 feet (1.83 metres) kept between individuals.

“There are currently no limitations on social gatherings as long as necessary precautions are taken and six feet of distance can be maintained between individuals and/or families,” reads the Missouri government’s Show Me Strong recovery plan.

However, not all areas of the state are choosing to reopen so soon, with stay-at-home orders still in place in the cities of St Louis and Kansas City, where local authorities are preparing to gradually relax measures from 18 and 15 May respectively.

In Oklahoma, the reopening plan presented by governor Kevin Stitt named “entertainment venues” among those permitted to open from last Friday (1 May), in accordance with social distancing and sanitation protocols. However, city-owned venues in Oklahoma City remain closed until at leat 15 May by order of mayor David Holt.

Indoor venues in the state of Arkansas including arenas and stadia will be allowed to reopen from 18 May, with a capacity limit of 50 people.

“I am confident this measured reopening is the best approach that will allow us to enjoy these entertainment venues again”

A distance of six feet must be kept between audience members or family groups, with every other row unoccupied. Hand sanitiser stations must be available at all entrances and exits and face coverings are required for all but attendees under ten years of age and performers, who must be 12 feet (3.65m) from the audience.

Arkansas venue TempleLive has already announced a live show by singer Travis McCready later this month, under what it calls ‘Covid operating protocol’. The venue is planning to operate at 20% of its 1,100 capacity, with fans sitting in clusters of between two and 12, dubbed ‘fan pods’.

“We are attempting to move past the restrictions that have been necessary during this pandemic, but we must do so in a manner that is based on solid data,” says Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson.

“I am confident this measured reopening is the best approach that will allow us to enjoy these entertainment venues again. As we cautiously emerge from this difficult time, we will keep an eye on data for any evidence that we are moving too quickly.”

Stay-at-home orders are still in place in the states of New York, New Mexico, Nevada, Michigan, Louisiana, District of Columbia, Delaware and Vermont until 15 May; in Minnesota and Massachusetts until 18 May; Connecticut until 20 May; Ohio until 29 May; Illinois until 30 May; Washington and Hawaii until 31 May; and Virginia until 10 June, as well as ongoing lockdowns in Oregon, New Jersey, Maryland, Kentucky and California.

Photo: Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)


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Arkansas venue to host first ‘socially distanced’ concert

In one of the first concerts with a live audience since the touring industry ground to a halt in March, Fort Smith, Arkansas, venue TempleLive has announced it will host a live show by singer Travis McCready later this month.

McCready, singer with country-rock band Bishop Gunn, will perform an acoustic set at the former Masonic hall on 15 May. In keeping with social distancing guidelines, audience members will be sat six feet apart, with only 229 tickets sold for the 1,100-capacity venue.

According to the Arkansas Times, the show will be held under what the venue is calling its ‘Covid operating protocol’, with capacity reduced 80% and fans sat 6’ (1.83m) apart in clusters of between two and 12, dubbed ‘fan pods’.

Tickets are priced at US$20 each, although the purchaser must buy all seats in a particular pod (to ensure they’re sat only with people with whom they’ve been isolating) to check out. At press time, Ticketmaster had groups of four, five, six and 12 tickets available for purchase, as well as two remaining two-person pods for disabled fans.

Other measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at TempleLive include one-way entrances and exits, a ten-person limit in the venue’s toilets and only pre-packaged/sealed food and beverage options. The venue will also be sanitised with fog sprayers before every performance, while patrons will have their temperatures taken to check for illness before entry.

Tickets are priced at $20 each, although the purchaser must buy all seats in a particular ‘pod’ to check out

Face masks will also be available for purchase before the show.

The announcement of the concert follows a directive by Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson that says theatres and other large venues will be allowed to reopen as of 18 May – albeit with fewer than 50 people in attendance.

Speaking to Billboard, Mike Brown of TempleLive said he is confident the McCready show will be allowed to go ahead, despite apparently not complying with the governor’s guidelines. “If you are a church [for example], there are no restrictions on how many people you can have inside as long as they follow CDC [Centers for Disease Control] guidelines and stay six feet apart,” he explains.

“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.”

“We’ve got a lot of time and there is an open line of communication,” he adds, “and I am the eternal optimist. I think we will be alright.”


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AR capital rejects ban on ‘violent’ concerts

County councillors in Pulaski County – the Arkansas county that incorporates the state capital, Little Rock – have voted against a ban on concerts “that promote or incite violence”, proposed in the wake of the shootings at a rap show in the city earlier this month.

Twenty-five people were injured after shots were fired at a concert by rapper Finese 2Tymes (pictured) at the Power Ultra Lounge nightclub on 1 July. According to the Associated Press, the show was promoted with a poster “depicting a man pointing what appeared to be a gun at the camera”.

In a statement, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson said the city’s “crime problem appears to be intensifying”, with a “high-profile shooting” dominating the news “every few days”. He also spoke of the need to “address the continued threat of violence in our community”.

A resolution proposed by Judy Green, a justice of the peace (magistrate) for Palaski County’s quorum court (roughly equivalent to a county council or commission), in the aftermath of the shooting would, if passed, have placed a 180-day moratorium “on all concerts and performers that promote or incite violence”.

“I knew it wasn’t going to pass, but I got your attention”

However, the proposal found “little support” at a quorum court meeting yesterday evening, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, with councillors and members of the community concluding any ban would violate the right to freedom of speech and expression, as enshrined in the US constitution.

Green said she knew the resolution “wasn’t going to pass”, but that she “got your attention, especially the media” and hoped the bill will lead to a wider discussion around gun violence.

Little Rock’s magistrates instead approved an amended resolution urging the county’s cities to promote “civil discourse”.


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Verizon Arena GM tipped for IAVM 2nd vice-chairmanship

Michael Marion, general manager of the 18,000-capacity Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Arkansas, has been nominated for the position of second vice-chair of the board of directors of the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM).

If elected by IAVM members, Marion will ascend to the ranks of the professional body’s senior management, serving a four-year term which will see him become chairman in 2018–2019.

Marion (pictured), who has worked at the Verizon Arena since 1997, has been an IAVM member since 1992.

“To use a worn cliché, it’s an honour to be nominated,” he comments. “Working in the concert business has been a wonderful experience the last 40 years and I really have enjoyed the friendships I’ve made through IAVM. I look forward to working with the current and future leadership of IAVM to advance our profession for a brighter future. This should be fun.”

In January Marion oversaw the installation of walk-in metal detectors at the Verizon Arena in response to terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.