The controversial “fan pod” concert in Arkansas went ahead last night, becoming the first live music event with an audience in the U.S. since the coronavirus lockdown rules were put into force.

Country-rock singer Travis McCready performed a set at the TempleLive theater in Fort Smith, with the venue capacity reduced from 1,100 to 229. To ensure the audience remained within social-distancing requirements, seating was arranged into “fan pods” – groups of two to 13 seats with those around them cordoned off.

A one-way system was effected throughout the premises, restroom capacity was restricted, face masks were mandatory, temperatures were checked before entry and enhanced sanitizing procedures were in place. It’s not clear if the event sold out, though ticket prices dropped from $20 to $15 in the days before the show.

TempleLive operator Mike Brown opened the show with a playback of Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party),” a reference to the tense negotiations he’d had with the Arkansas governor’s office over whether the show could be staged.

When McCready – who admitted at one point that he didn’t think the concert would go forward – came onstage, he brought his dog with him. His set included new material, as well as a cover of Audioslave’s “I Am the Highway.”

“It’s just nice to feel normal again,” one fan told 5News in a report you can watch below. “Even with a face mask on, it’s nice to be doing something normal.”

“This is about rock ’n’ roll, and having a good time … and doing what you do as an American – you know, you go out, you do things," Brown said.

The evening's opening artist, Lauren Brown, predicted that the event marked a small step in a return to larger-scale performances. “I’m just glad we get to play some live music, no matter what means we came by it," she said. "It got scary there for a while.”

Enter your number to get our free mobile app

You can see photos from the event and venue below.