Arts and Culture

Rupp Arena in Lexington is holding its first live music concert in about 10 months on Friday evening.

About 2,800 tickets were available for the show being called the “Acoustic Concert,” headlined by country singer-songwriter Brantley Gilbert and featuring other country music acts such as Russell Dickerson and Riley Green.

Director of arena management Carl Hall said those ticket holders plus staff that will be onsite make up about 15% of the indoor arena’s capacity, falling within the state’s guidance that presently allows venues or event spaces to operate up to 50% capacity

Hall said they worked with the governor’s office to develop safety protocols, and as part of that, decided to sell blocks of two to four tickets in socially distanced pods located six feet apart in all directions. He added that audience members will also never be closer than 12 feet from the artists onstage. 

“As we have done multiple basketball games and have a process that works very well for that, moving that process over to this live music event should not be a challenge based upon cooperation by the patrons,” Hall said.

That cooperation includes mask wearing, a mandate that Hall said will be enforced.

“We’re doing everything on our side to maintain the integrity and, this is the most important part though, the patrons have to participate and cooperate, stay in seats that they bought, wear a face mask, don’t congregate in the concourses. Because if you don’t, we’re going to ask you to leave,” he said, adding that compliance will also allow them to do more live entertainment events down the road.   

As for the artists’ safety, Hall said equipment will be switched out in between acts, they’re restricting backstage access to “to only key personnel,” doing frequent cleaning and sanitation, and keeping artists in their own space when not onstage.

A Three 6 Mafia concert that had been scheduled for Saturday was canceled. Hall said that was due to a scheduling conflict and “the artists were not able to make it work.” They hope to reschedule in the future.  

The “Acoustic Concert” is an iteration of the “Acoustic Jam,” which had been at the Lexington Opera House for the past seven years.

Hall began discussions with the promoters of that show in early fall about how to present the concert during the pandemic. It became clear that the opera house was too small to put on the event at reduced audience capacity and have it be “financially viable.” 

“Fifteen percent of the operating capacity [at the arena] did fulfill the financial needs for all parties involved, so we were able to move it over,” Hall said.

Originally scheduled for early December, the show was postponed when Gov. Andy Beshear put in place stricter COVID restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms and venues. 

The concert will take place one day after the governor announced 4,084 new cases of coronavirus and 51 deaths.  

Many other venues throughout Kentucky remain shuttered, many grateful for the Save Our Stage $15 billion grant program included in the latest federal COVID relief package and keeping an eye on local vaccination rollout.

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.