Going to a concert these days has put artists, venues and the audience in the middle of the COVID-19 debates about mask mandates, negative tests or proof of vaccination.
The latest dust-up features indie-pop duo Tennis, which canceled its Oct. 22 show at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg after the venue refused to allow them to require a vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test for entry.
“We don’t feel safe playing shows without these simple precautions in place,” the band posted on its Instagram account. “It’s really frustrating that the burden of health and safety so often falls onto the band.”
Becky Barnes, general manager of Jannus Live, said the venue had no comment.
Florida law says businesses can’t require customers to show proof of vaccination. But adding an option for a negative test is different, and the governor’s office has acknowledged that the combination makes this rule lawful.
Concert and event venues are stuck in the middle of the COVID-19 debates. Audiences bristle at the rules, and sometimes it is the artists who require them.
Last month, comedian Patton Oswalt canceled shows in Utah and Florida, including one at Clearwater’s Capitol Theatre, saying they don’t meet his requirements for safety.
“The bad news is there are five venues on the tour that are not complying with this and I’ll give you one guess as to which state it was,” Oswalt said in a video to fans.
Meanwhile, comedian Jim Breuer says he’s “absolutely not” performing shows at venues that require proof of COVID-19 vaccinations, calling the public health measures “segregation.”
“Due to the segregation of them forcing people to show up with vaccination — to prove you’re vaccinated, to prove you’ve had a shot — I’m absolutely not doing those shows,” Breuer said in a recent Facebook Live post.
And some artists are canceling because of Florida itself.
Florida had three times as many COVID deaths since June as California, despite having about half the number of residents.
Rob Mondora, artistic supervisor at Largo’s Central Park Performing Arts Center, said he received a letter recently from J.D. Souther, best known as the songwriter of some of Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles’ biggest hits. The famed singer-songwriter said he was avoiding the state in his latest tour.
Mondora said his venue currently requires the staff to wear masks and “strongly encourages” masks of its audience. But he’s hoping as recent numbers seem to be trending better, it will make his job easier.
“Hopefully as things start to get better we can all loosen up and get back to normal,” Mondora said.