The coronavirus started to unplug the concert industry this week, as touring stars Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, the Lumineers, Rage Against the Machine and more postponed Twin Cities shows.
"This is all uncharted," Chesney said in a statement calling off his May 2 date at U.S. Bank Stadium and several other concerts.
"I'm like everyone else: watching the news, wondering when we may know something concrete, not sure how this gets transmitted, worried someone I know will catch it," the country superstar said. "I want to believe this will all be OK in the end; but right now [no risk] is worth it."
Xcel Energy Center lost both of its big concerts this weekend amid the growing wave of postponements. The Lumineers concert Friday was postponed to Sept. 24. Aldean's show Saturday is now rebooked for Aug. 8.
Rage has delayed the entire first leg of its first tour in over a decade, including sold-out shows May 11-12 at Target Center. Reba McEntire's May 7 gig at Xcel Center was rescheduled for July 23. Dan + Shay moved their April 10 show at Target Center to Aug. 29. No new date has been set for Chesney. Tickets to the original nights will be honored at the makeup concerts.
Still in question is the Eagles' two-night affair April 3-4 at Xcel Center.
"We continue to work closely with local, state and national authorities on all of our safety measures and will follow their direction on any necessary steps," Xcel Center official Kelly McGrath said Thursday.
Concern over the disease began rippling through the concert industry with last week's cancellation of the South by Southwest music festival in Texas. Then Seattle rockers Pearl Jam delayed their North American tour. And the big Coachella music fest in Southern California was postponed from April until October.
The industry's biggest promotions companies, competitors Live Nation and AEG, teamed up with booking agencies representing artists to make a joint declaration Thursday afternoon calling off all their largest tours until April.
"At this time, we collectively recommend large-scale events through the end of March be postponed," the coalition said in a joint statement. "We continue to support that small-scale events follow guidance set by their local government officials."
On the club end, country band Lanco called off its concert Thursday at the Fillmore with only a half-day's notice. Saturday's show there with the Revivalists was also canceled.
First Avenue also started to churn out cancellation notices for its various venues, including the Drive-by Truckers' stop at the Palace Theatre on Saturday and shows by Devon Townsend, Adam Green and Avi Kaplan in the coming week.
Local band Cloud Cult had to nix a pair of ambitious concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra March 20-21 at Orchestra Hall. Makeup dates in the fall are in the works.
"We're sorry about any complications with flight plans or hotels," frontman Craig Minowa said, "but I think we're all going to get good practice over the next few months, as this thing escalates, putting on our smiley faces and being the best team players we can be."
'Responsible and rational'
Still, plenty of shows have not been called off, and venues were working hard to try to ensure safety for fans and keep them informed.
"We're being mindful and responsible and rational," said Lowell Pickett, proprietor of the Dakota music club in Minneapolis, which presented Wynonna Judd on Thursday and Friday.
Music fans looking for the most up-to-the-minute info can often get it via the venues' and artists' Twitter accounts, where many of Thursday's cancellations were first revealed.
It's too early to tell what will happen with big concerts this spring and through the summer, including the Rolling Stones' May 16 appearance at U.S. Bank Stadium and such festivals as the Basilica Block Party and Rock the Garden.
Tuesday's announcement of a female-led lineup for Rock the Garden would normally have created a big buzz. Instead, the conversation on social media quickly turned to whether the June 20 event will be called off.
"If Rock the Garden is canceled due to COVID-19, all tickets will be refunded," organizers tweeted in response.
Fans have still been flocking to concerts over the past week. Out-of-town acts including Bob Weir, Best Coast and Kat Edmonson played to near full houses. (But Weir postponed the rest of his tour Thursday.)
"I can't live in fear," said Jay Dolan of St. Paul, who didn't hesitate to see Weir's gig Tuesday at the Fillmore Minneapolis. "I take some precautions, but it is early yet. Ask me in a month."
Debra Blondeau of Minneapolis wasn't reluctant to attend Judd's near-capacity show at the Dakota on Thursday.
"I knew this was a small venue and our seats [in the balcony] are far from anyone else," she said. "So we're OK."
Nurse practitioner Vickie Shelquist of Silver City, N.M., is taking a measured approach. "It's a virus and we know how to treat viruses; it is no threat," said Shelquist, in town to visit friends and attend a concert by Liv Warfield at the Fine Line.
Heading to New York this week, funk-rock singer Warfield of Portland, Ore., was more circumspect.
"It's scary. No lie," said Warfield. "I can't stop. Life is for the living. But I'm aware and I'm nervous. I have a European tour coming up."
Earlier this week, First Avenue said it had received only two coronavirus-related refund requests among its six venues — from ticket holders who were quarantined (their money was refunded).
First Ave and other presenters that offer music nightly, including the Dakota and Crooners in Fridley, are taking their cues from officials at the Centers for Disease Control.
"We're paying close attention to CDC warnings and following the best advice," First Avenue general manager Nate Kranz said Tuesday. "I can honestly say the last couple of weeks have been as busy as ever for confirming future shows. Everybody's optimistic."
Some music venues have been making slight modifications. At the month-old Fillmore Minneapolis, prominent signs went up Tuesday in the restrooms, urging fans to cough into their sleeves and wash their hands for 20 seconds.
Crooners owner Mary Tjosvold, who also runs 33 residential health care businesses, continues her vigilance about cleaning tables, restrooms and other areas but did make one change this week — paper menus, so staffers no longer have to disinfect plastic-laminated menus after each use.
Minnesota acts currently on tour have seen fear over the virus being amped up in states with more cases.
"We went from shaking hands at the start of our tour to bumping fists, and now we're just bumping elbows," Soul Asylum singer Dave Pirner said of his band's meet-and-greets with fans during a stretch of California gigs this week.
Like Soul Asylum, Minneapolis singer Sean "Har Mar Superstar" Tillmann was supposed to perform at South by Southwest. He and his new band, Heart Bones, also had West Coast dates booked, but those are being postponed until September.
The group just wrapped up a string of gigs on the East Coast date. "The good news is, people [were] still coming out, and having fun," he said.
March is "not the busiest of touring months," said Twin Cities booking agent Kevin Daly. Half of his Northstar Artist roster is on tour, from Europe to Japan, and he's spent considerable time this week addressing coronavirus concerns. "We're taking things on a market-by-market, venue-by-venue basis," Daly said.
Performers appreciate that music lovers are coming to shows in these uncertain times. Last Saturday at the Dakota, Americana singer Hayes Carll praised the audience for having the courage to attend.
When a fan requested that Carll's wife and opening act, Allison Moorer, join him for the encore, the quick-witted Texan joked: "She's out buying hand sanitizer."