Jason Isbell on why vaccinations or negative COVID tests are mandatory at his gigs: “You’ve always had to wear pants to a show”

“We’re just a few weeks away from everything getting shut back down if we don’t do this.”

Jason Isbell onstage

Photo: Erika Goldring / FilmMagic

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Jason Isbell believes vaccination and negative COVID test entry requirements for his gigs are a “social contract” that’s akin to wearing trousers out: they do not represent an intrusion into people’s personal lives.

Isbell caught some flak for cancelling one of his recent concerts in Houston after the venue allegedly did not comply with his band’s health and safety requirements. During an appearance on CBS This Morning, he rationalised why these measures are only sensible during the pandemic to keep people safe.

“We’re in an emergency situation,” the country musician said. “I’m just trying to keep people from getting sick at my concerts, and I think that’s more important than people getting their feelings hurt to tell you the truth.”

He added: “I don’t think there’s anything intrusive about asking people to participate in a social contract. I mean, you have to wear pants at the show. You’ve always had to wear pants.”

Isbell also touched on why COVID safety measures are crucial for the live industry, especially since performers were barred from performing for most of 2020 and the start of this year.

“[Another lockdown] is inevitable if we don’t [put] some restrictions in place to make it safer,” he said. “Some people just aren’t going to get vaccinated – whether they medically can or not – and they’re going to continue to go out and spread the virus.”

He continued: “I think we’re just a few weeks away from everything getting shut back down if we don’t do this.”

Isbell isn’t alone in instituting such safety measures at his concerts, as the likes of Dead & Company and Maroon 5 have introduced similar practices.

Meanwhile, Eric Clapton has taken the opposite stance. He’s against venues requiring audiences show proof of vaccination, saying he won’t “perform where there is a discriminated audience present”.

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