On Saturday night (25), a drive-in concert featuring The Chainsmokers took place in Nova’s Ark Project in the Hamptons town of Water Mill, NY. What was supposed to be a socially-distanced night of charity, with proceeds from the up to $25,000 tickets going to No Kid Hungry, Southampton Fresh Air Home and Children’s Medical Fund of New York, has now become the subject of controversy as video has surfaced of concert goers crowding the stage maskless.
The most prominent clip is a two-second video shot from what looks like the stage looking out over a sea of concert goers with no cars in sight. However, more videos have been popping up as well, including one where people seem to be moving away from their cars and one that shows people getting closer and closer to the stage.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo didn’t seem too keen on what he witnessed in those videos either. He took to Twitter Monday to condemn what he saw in the videos as “egregious social distancing violations,” and saying he was “appalled” by it. Cuomo’s statement also reveals that he will be having the state’s Department of Health looking into what happened at the event.
“We have no tolerance for the illegal & reckless endangerment of public health.”
Howard Zucker, New York State’s health commissioner, also expressed concern. In a letter to Southampton town supervisor Jay Schneiderman, he said that he was “greatly disturbed” by what he saw, writing, “I am at a loss as to how the Town of Southampton could have issued a permit for such an event, how they believed it was legal and not an obvious public health threat.”
In The Know Experiences and Invisible Noise, the two event companies who put together and staffed the event, defended the show, explaining to Billboard how they tried to do their part to make the benefit as safe as possible. Portable toilets were cleaned every ten minutes. In The Know Experiences also said that all guests had their temperatures checked upon arrival to the venue and were given free masks. Announcements were also made from the stage’s loudspeakers every 30 minutes about staying in one’s own space and wearing masks with security guards patrolling the area to “enforce” social distancing.
Said In The Know, “The video that everyone is talking about was taken from an angle that doesn’t properly convey how careful we were to follow the guidelines created by the CDC. We did everything in our power to enforce New York’s social distancing guidelines and collaborated with all state and local health officials to keep everyone safe.”
“Safe & Sound” is the latest in a string of shows that have displayed blatant disregard for social distancing in the wake of the pandemic. Shows by country musicians Chase Rice and Chris Janson in Tennessee and Idaho, respectively, made news in June after video and photos of maskless crowds made their way around the internet. Earlier this month, Mini Fest (originally Herd Immunity Fest) took place in Wisconsin and while the venue claims people were being respectful of each other and it looks like some people distanced themselves, there still seemed to be no masks in sight. Metal band Great White were also under scrutiny earlier this month after performing a show in North Dakota where masks and social distancing were scarce (which they later gave a non-apology for).
New York is one of the few states that has curbed its COVID-19 numbers. Once the epicenter of the virus with thousands of cases being reported daily (Suffolk County, which covers the Hamptons, has the fifth-highest case count by county in the state), cases have now gone down to 500-700 reported a day. While lower, the virus is not gone and an event handled as poorly as this could contribute to a potential spike in cases.
On the whole, drive-in concerts have proved to be a viable means of bringing live events back in the interim (when done right of course). Successful series’ have already taken place in Germany and the UK, and have been popping up across the US as well.