Colorado concerts, events canceled amid rising COVID-19 cases
Canceled tours, shows and festivals are remaking Colorado’s 2021 concert calendar this week, even as artists and promoters scramble to impose stricter rules that will slow down the surge in COVID-19 cases.
“It was a surprise,” said Denver R&B singer Adiel Mitchell, who was scheduled to play the Aug. 14-15 Bohemian Light Music Festival in Fort Collins before its Monday cancellation. Producers cited “the emergence and rapid spread of the Delta variant.”
“It’s weird to think things could shift back to mask mandates and staying at home so quickly,” Mitchell, 27, said. The singer, producer and dancer this week quit his part-time job at Apple, where he worked as a Solutions Consultant, to focus on his artistic career, he said.
“I’m bummed I may not be able to afford (being an artist) again,” Mitchell said. “But we’re still a long way from going out in public like we used to.”
Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks, 73, on Wednesday canceled all five of her 2021 solo concerts, including a Sept. 5 outdoor set at Jazz Aspen Snowmass, citing health concerns. Jimmy Buffett will replace her to close out the event, The Aspen Times reported.
Also on Wednesday, Dead & Co. announced new COVID protocols that require all attendees to provide proof of full vaccination or negative COVID tests 48 hours before entry. The band’s national tour includes Oct. 22 and 23 concerts at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre, which could draw up to 36,000 over two days.
On Tuesday, alt-country hero Jason Isbell canceled a Houston concert, blaming the venue for unwillingness to set stricter COVID safety measures, according to the Houston Chronicle. Counting Crows, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Limp Bizkit, Michael Bublé and Fall Out Boy have also canceled dates in recent days due to Delta variant concerns and, in some cases, touring members testing positive for COVID.
In Colorado, concerts generate $2.1 billion, support 16,127 jobs and contribute $113 million in state and local taxes, according to a report released this week by Oxford Economics.. A return to 2020’s shutdowns is unthinkable, some said, and fans need to get vaccinated.
“You have no idea how precarious this situation is for musicians and crew,” Denver metal band Khemmis tweeted Tuesday. “Another year of canceled tours will absolutely destroy the artists, venues & related businesses you claim to love.”
Officials from AEG Presents Rocky Mountains and Live Nation, the region’s two major promoters, did not respond to requests for comment. But Live Nation backs artists who want to set up their own, more stringent COVID protocols, according to Pollstar.
Denver comic and musician Ben Roy on Monday said he’s cutting a national, punk rock and comedy tour short due to “the explosion of new COVID cases in the areas we’d be playing,” such as Florida.
“This was already risky in areas moderately affected, but going into areas with bogged down health care facilities and potentially adding more patients to hospital beds just feels downright irresponsible,” he wrote on Facebook.
“I put my life on hold for sixteen months,” Roy added Wednesday via email. “(But) I’ll revisit when things cool off.”
Denver’s club scene is tightening up to stay ahead of any potential state mandates. Comedy Works in Lower Downtown last weekend hosted its first shows since the pandemic began, with “WTF” podcast star Marc Maron requiring proof of vaccination and masks at his sold-out, indoor sets.
High Plains Comedy Festival, the region’s biggest stand-up fest, will require audience members to be vaccinated to enter its multiple venues, Sept. 16-18, founder Adam Cayton-Holland told The Denver Post this week.
Promoter Z2 Entertainment, which runs the Boulder, Fox and Aggie theaters, said its venues will now require vaccinations or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival. The gay clubs Trade and Tracks will also begin requiring proof of vaccination upon arrival, Westword reported.
Denver’s Oriental Theater is open to tightening its restrictions even more, said Scott Happel, who manages the historic venue along with South Broadway’s HQ club (formerly 3 Kings Tavern).
“Some events may choose to require stricter rules, and we will accommodate those for them,” he said. “But that is up to each individual event.”
Two months ago, promoters were rushing to fill venues with long-postponed and newly booked shows. Even amid Delta variant concerns, dozens more continue to join the calendar each week. The global concert industry lost $30 billion in 2020, and a few short months of shutdowns can ravage a scene. Between April 1 and July 31, 2020, Colorado’s music industry lost 8,327 jobs and $344.6 million in sales revenue, according to a report from Denver Arts & Venues.
“My fear is that if fall and winter events are canceled this year, many of our independent venues will cease to exist,” said Chris Zacher, chairman of the Colorado Independent Venue Association. “Arts and culture is the third-largest economic driver in the state. … When venues are shuttered or permanently closed, the trickle-down effect is devastating.”
Paul DeHaven, co-founder of Denver folk-rock act Heavy Diamond Ring, is fully expecting to lose income in the coming weeks from canceled shows.
“I feel like, first of all, go get vaccinated! What are you trying to prove here? That you can shut down the economy again? That you can make me lose my job again?” said DeHaven, whose band was also scheduled for this weekend’s canceled Bohemian Light Festival. “It’s infuriating and exhausting.”
Outbreaks at Colorado concerts this year have been exceedingly rare, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Even with hundreds of metro-area shows welcoming tens of thousands of concert-goers in recent months, fewer than a half-dozen indoor arts venues have been cited, the CDPHE reported.
Small outbreaks occurred at the String Cheese Incident shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, July 16-18, with larger outbreaks of 23 cases at Mesa County’s Country Jam over the Fourth of July weekend, and the Greeley Stampede in early July, with 25 cases.
Whatever happens, Heavy Diamond Ring’s DeHaven is still looking forward to an Aug. 20 solo show he’s playing with Patrick Dethlefs at Globe Hall. It may be his last for awhile, he said.
“As far as a Plan B goes, I don’t really see a viable one,” DeHaven said. “I don’t know what will happen if we have to go through another winter like last year.”
Denver Post data journalist Kevin Hamm contributed to this report.
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