Concerts being canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has resulted in constitutional concerns being raised by Reverend Horton Heat, an internationally touring “psychobilly” band refusing to postpone upcoming performances because of COVID-19.
Jim Heath, the group’s frontman better known by the stage name Revered Horton Heat, said in a series of social media posts Friday and Saturday that his band will not cancel any gigs over COVID-19, the infectious and potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and that any postponed dates will be the result of promoters.
And as cities across the U.S. continue to restrict public gatherings out of an abundance of caution, Mr. Heath urged his fans to fight back against “authoritarian” governments.
“I encourage everyone who lives in a jurisdiction where local governments are restricting rock and roll to push back. Write emails and call your local government agencies to remind them that we have the right to assembly. They can’t stop rock and roll,” Mr. Heath posted on Facebook.
Mr. Heath, 60, subsequently responded to several Facebook followers who commented on his post to explain why he intends to continue touring in spite of the coronavirus outbreak.
“It’s dumb to panic to the point of giving up your first amendment right of assembly. Don’t be a sheeple to authoritarian government,” he responded to one user.
“My crew guys have bills to pay. If you don’t want to come to the show, it’s your right not too. I’m for rock and roll. I’m for freedom,” he replied to another.
Responding to a Facebook user who called his comment stupid and selfish, Mr. Heath fired back: “Being a sheeple to governments that violate our first amendment rights is stupid.”
“Governments shutting down our first amendment right to assembly is more dangerous than any disease,” the musician posted Saturday.
Concerts and other large events across the country have been canceled or suspended in recent days as concerns swell along with the number of confirmed domestic cases of COVID-19.
The Ultra Music Festival held annually in Miami was called off last week by city officials, and the popular South by Southwest and Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival have since been canceled and postponed, respectively.
Live Nation and AEG, the two largest concert promoters in the country, said in a joint statement Thursday that they “collectively recommend” postponing large-scale events scheduled to take place this month, and several major artists – Celine Dion, Billie Eilish, Kelly Clarkson and the Jonas Brothers, among others – have suspended upcoming dates.
Reverend Horton Heat is hardly the only touring group to insist on performing amid the coronavirus outbreak, however.
The Exploited, a Scottish punk band formed in 1979, vowed earlier this week to continue touring in spite of the pandemic, according to a statement shared by concert promoter DRW Entertainment.
“I have had 5 heart attacks a quad heart bypass and a heart pace maker fitted. Cancel gigs for a virus? We ain’t f-ing Green Day,” Exploited frontman Walter “Wattie” Buchan said in the statement. “We are the real deal. No danger will we be cancelling our upcoming gigs. Punks Not Dead!”
Reverend Horton Heat began performing in Texas in 1986 and released the group’s first record, “Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em,” in 1990. The band has released another 11 studio albums and toured regularly in the decades that followed.
The group currently has dozens of shows scheduled throughout the spring in the U.S. and abroad, including a show set for Saturday night in Tampa, Florida, according to the band’s website.
Around 50 people in the U.S. have died after contracting COVID-19, President Trump said Saturday during a White House press conference. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at the press conference that 2,226 domestic cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed — nearly 600 more than what was reported the previous day by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.