CORINTH • The Crossroads Arena is slowly and safely doing its part to bring back the concert experience for music fans.
The Corinth venue has scheduled a series of concerts featuring artists with ties to the region and the state playing for a socially-distanced audience. Paul Thorn began the series last week.
The series, however, hit a bump Thursday. A concert headlined by Trent Harmon, the "American Idol" winner from Amory, scheduled for Saturday was postponed.
"Due to unforeseen circumstances, in no fault of the Arena, artist, or promoters, this weekend’s concert (11/21) has been postponed to a future date," read a statement from the arena on its Facebook page. Ticket refunds for the Harmon concert will be offered starting Monday at the point of purchase.
The series resumes Dec. 5 with Doug Stone, the Georgia native who scored several hits in the early 1990s, as the headliner. Joining Stone will be Jeff Bates, a Marion County native, and Corinth singer/songwriter John Spears.
The concert starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the arena box office and through Ticketmaster.com.
Crossroads Arena general manager Tammy Genovese said fans are wanting to hear music in person after being away for most of the year because of the pandemic.
“I think we’re giving them an opportunity, and we’re taking it slow and easy with the smaller shows to ease back into it,” she said Friday afternoon before the Thorn performance. “Hopefully, next year we’ll have much bigger shows. At least we’re taking a risk. We’re working with the artists to make sure they’re taking care of and to have something going on.”
The artists are performing in an amphitheater-like setup on one end of the arena. The arena is using a “pod” method of seating where groups of ticketbuyers are separated by at least six feet and every other row is skipped.
The floor seating has 12 rows of 18 chairs. Two chairs are placed together and then there’s six feet of space to the next set of chairs. Distancing is also used in the eight riser sections.
Neil Cockrell, event manager at Crossroads Arena, said 510 seats are available in this configuration. He added that the NFL’s Tennessee Titans use the same seating plan at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium.
“Our Ticketmaster rep is the same one that works with Nissan Stadium,” Cockrell said. “We basically worked off their footprint, what they’ve done. We’ve followed the same guidelines.”
Cockrell said the Thorn concert drew about 400 people.
“It was a good crowd,” he said. “Everybody seemed to enjoy the setup. The distancing wasn’t an issue.”
Genovese said the arena was able to host two major events that required dirt to be brought in for the venue floor – a monster truck event and a rodeo – before the COVID-19 shutdown. She said the dirt was brought back in this fall for a horse show and motocross and go-kart racing.
As for concerts, Genovese said the scaled-back seating can be enjoyable.
“We can scale it down and it will look intimate as opposed to looking like it has 7,000 empty seats,” she said. “We actually did one show with tables and floors on the floor like a little cafe bar-type setting.”
The arena seating sections, Genovese said, are sanitized before and after the shows and spectators are asked to wear masks. She adds the music artists want to go back on the road, but at the same time have concerns.
“No. 1, from their fan perspective, they’re either going to get beat up or praised,” she said. “So, they’re shying away from any kind of negative vibes from people. You’ve got to make the right decisions. And then they can get out there and who knows who’s going to show up. This is the unknown. We’re one of the first ones that we know of to put ourseslves out there and do this.”
In addition to preventing the spread of the coronavirus among spectators, Genovese and concert series promoter Tim Warren both said steps are being taken to protect the artists. Warren said the solo acoustic performances reduce the number of people behind the scenes.
“There are no meet-and-greets. Only essential people are allowed backstage,” he said. “That’s why we’re doing the acoustic thing. We’re going on the very bare minimum of people backstage.”
The performers, Warren said, have been working with him and the arena to give the fans live music.
“We’re not making money on these shows,” he said. “It’s more about breaking even or as close to it, so let’s give the people a place where they feel safe just to get some sense of normalcy back. The artists have been very, very gracious in working with us. They understand if any new mandates come down, the show may not happen.”
The arena is in the process of booking concerts for next year. Warren said contracts for those shows should be signed soon, and the lineup of performers will be announced at a later date. One concert event originally scheduled for this month, the Honkytonk Throwdown II featuring Sawyer Brown and Little Texas, has been rescheduled for Oct. 15, 2021.