Controversial Travis McCready concert canceled by Arkansas officials

Mikael Wood
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.  (Danny Johnston / Associated Press)

The first high-profile concert of the quarantine age will not go on as planned Friday, according to the Arkansas venue where it was scheduled to take place.

Mike Brown of Temple Live, a 1,100-seat theater located in a former Masonic temple in Fort Smith, said at a news conference Thursday that the state government had ordered the venue to call off a highly publicized performance by Travis McCready, frontman of a roots-rock band called Bishop Gunn. Brown said state officials had also suspended the venue's liquor license, Arkansas' KARK reported, even as the venue was working on ways to keep fans socially distant during the show.

"We’ve been punished for thinking about doing something, or considering while we were evaluating," Brown said. "It’s very 'Minority Report' and 'Westworld,' which I thought were pieces of fiction but are now reality in this country and state."

Temple Live said it would seek to reschedule McCready's performance for Monday, the same day Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is allowing venues in the state to reopen. Yet those venues must limit attendance at events to fewer than 50 people, according to the New York Times, whereas Temple Live had initially been planning for more than 200 at McCready's gig. A report in Pitchfork said the theater was seeking approval to host more than 50 for the rescheduled date.

The battle in Arkansas comes as the shutdown of the live-music industry enters its third month amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On Wednesday the Hollywood Bowl announced that it was canceling its entire summer season — a first in the iconic venue's nearly century-long history — while country star Kenny Chesney said Thursday that he was postponing his 2020 tour and hoped to reschedule it for 2021.

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