VIA ROUNDER RECORDS
Samantha Fish is just one of the artists scheduled to perform.
St. Louis' Old Rock House (1200 South Seventh Street, 314-588-0505)
is heading west for a newly announced pair of spring concerts.
Those shows — the Allman Betts Band on April 18 and Samatha Fish on April 27 — are each slated to take place at Chesterfield Amphitheater (631 Veterans Place Drive, Chesterfield; 636-537-4770)
in a socially distanced manner meant to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
"Old Rock House is proud to announce that we will be producing socially distant shows out at Chesterfield Amphitheater this year," talent buyer Jon Metz says in a statement. "We have been working very closely with the City of Chesterfield and St. Louis County Health Department to get safety plans approved, and we're very excited to show you what we have all been working on."
The shows will operate in a pod set-up — a fairly familiar concept by now for those who have braved live events in the era of coronavirus — in which tickets must be purchased in batches of two or four. Masks will be required while attendees are moving about the venue, but will not be required inside the pods.
Tickets for the Allman Betts Band will be $35 to $45 each, and those for the Samatha Fish show will be $28 to $40. Both shows will go on sale this Friday at 10 a.m. through Eventbrite
It's hardly the first time the two venues have worked together. In fact, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit a year ago, an Old Rock House-produced performance by country artist Jamey Johnson slated for July at the Amphitheater was one of the more hotly anticipated shows that got the axe — much to the surprise and dismay of staff.
"When it hit in March, it never dawned on us that there was a possibility that this thing was gonna last this long," managing partner Tim Weber tells RFT
. "So we were, and I was, completely convinced that that outdoor show would still happen in July. So we sorta hunkered down and planned on two or three months of no business and then a slow build back up. And I was wrong."
That Jamey Johnson show has since been rescheduled for June 24. Old Rock House, meanwhile, was the first dedicated St. Louis music venue to reopen after the whole industry was shut down by the pandemic, throwing a "Listening Room" series of shows that kicked off in September.
The venue put extensive COVID-19 safety measures in place upon reopening, including mandatory masks for guests and patrons, a limit of only 50 guests in the building (ten percent of its capacity), tables spaced six feet apart, temperature checks at the doorway and increased sanitization efforts.
"We felt the need to prove that at some capacity concerts could happen safely. At the end of the day we couldn't just sit tight anymore and hope something happens, so we wanted to set out to prove that it could be done well," Weber says. "Even at — we were at ten percent capacity, we were at 50 people — so even at that small number, we just wanted to prove that it could be really safe. Our hope at the time was that by doing the 50 people really well we could build it up to 100 and keep going from there, because obviously 50 people, we don't come anywhere close to making money."
But seemingly just as quickly as that series came together, it came apart. To paraphrase a common saying, "man makes plans; COVID-19 laughs." By November, case numbers in the region reached record highs and area hospitals came to the brink of the breaking point. St. Louis County Executive Sam Page responded by instituting a new round of restrictions on bars and similar venues, and though Old Rock House isn't technically in the jurisdiction those rules affected, Weber decided it would be safest to suspend the series and close the venue's doors
"We started getting phone calls from people, and they’re saying, ‘Well I guess this, whatever upcoming show it is, is cancelled.' And you feel a little bit silly trying to explain to them, 'No, no, we’re not in the county. If you come four miles this way, everything’s fine,'" Weber explains. "Even though at the end of the day I think it was. I think the Old Rock House did a phenomenal job. We had no reported cases of coronavirus.
"I think that concerts at the Old Rock house were a lot safer than hanging out at an awful lot of the small bars around town or whatnot, right?" he continues. "We did everything we could to be safe, but at the end of the day, why risk it if you’re not making any money anyway?"
For the time being, that line of thinking seems to be holding. Old Rock House has not hosted any shows since closing its doors again in November, and all of the shows on its current roster of events, save for the ones announced today in Chesterfield, are rescheduled ones initially slated for 2020. Whether those shows actually take place at the venue or, instead, move to the outdoor Chesterfield Amphitheater remains something of an open question.
Meanwhile, Weber has launched a GoFundMe
to help raise money for his employees while the venue remains closed. If you have money to give, do so at bit.ly/3pxGA5y
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