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Neil Young on Concerts In the Covid Age: ‘These Are Super Spreader Events’

After pulling out of Farm Aid earlier this month because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Neil Young elaborated on his concerns in a new op-ed that accused concert promoters of valuing profits over safety.

“Garth Books and others like him have been responsible and pulled back from doing shows,” Young wrote in a post on the Neil Young Archives. “That’s a good example. But it will take big promoters and managers/agents to make the difference. It’s all about the money… The big promoters, if they had the awareness, could stop these shows. Without that, everyone just keeps going like everything is OK. It’s not.”

Live Nation and AEG are both requiring that fans at their shows provide proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, but Young seems to feel that isn’t enough. “Live Nation, AEG, and the other big promoters could shut this down if they could just forget about making money for a while,” Young writes. “They control much of the entertainment business. They hold the power to stop shows where thousands congregate and spread. It’s money that keeps it going. Money that motivates the spreading. The big promoters are responsible for super spreaders.”

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Artists like Nine Inch Nails, Pixies, Stevie Nicks, and BTS have all cancelled their touring plans recently because of rising Covid cases spurred by the Delta variant, but many large acts — including Dead and Company, Phish, Dave Matthews Band, the IndieLands, Green Day, and Genesis — are going ahead with their tours. “Folks see concerts advertised and think it must be ok to go and mingle,” Young writes. “It’s not. There are super-spreaders events, irresponsible Freedom Fests. We need Freedom to be safe. Not a bad example. This could be just the beginning.”

Young hasn’t played a pubic show since Farm Aid 2019 in East Troy, Wisconsin. He’s spent much of the pandemic preparing archival releases, but he recently cut a new album with Crazy Horse that he hopes to release later this year. When they’ll go on the road to support it is very much an open question.

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