This story has been updated.
Carly Pearce was scheduled to perform a free concert in Jeffersonville, Indiana on Saturday, July 1st as part of the city’s “Jammin’ in Jeff” series. Jeffersonville is right across the river from Louisville, Kentucky. But Pearce never took the Jeffersonville Riverstage as scheduled.
Citing concerns about the weather, Carly Pearce cancelled her performance, has not scheduled a replacement date, and still cashed her $75,000 appearance check from the city, leaving city officials up in arms and speaking out. But Carly Pearce’s camp is telling a different story from Jeffersonville officials.
The forecast for Saturday said there was a chance of inclement weather in the area around 10 pm, and inclement weather did ultimately move through the area later in the evening. But according to local officials, they offered Pearce multiple alternatives to allow the performance to go forward, including starting the concert early to give ample time to perform and load up before the storms came through. A member of the setup crew, Robert B. Morrison, confirmed it took the crew less than two hours to tear everything down and have it loaded once they decided to cancel.
According to Jeffersonville officials, Pearce’s camp cancelled at 6 pm and refused to entertain any alternative plans. When asked to return her performance fee, the Carly Pearce camp cited a contract provision that allows Pearce to keep the fee if a cancellation is due to “an act of God.” The city also said they paid some $20,000 to accommodate a team of Carly Pearce’s songwriters and support staff. In mainstream country, it is common for co-writers to be part of an artist’s touring entourage to work on new material. Jeffersonville officials also said they were out other expenses due to the cancellation.
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore called the situation “disheartening.”
A city attorney added in an official statement, “Carly Pearce has just informed city officials that she has cancelled her performance at tonight’s Jeff Goes Country due to her concerns of severe weather potentially developing later this evening. Unfortunately, Carly Pearce refused the city’s request to take the stage early as way to avoid any threat of severe weather and more importantly, so the show could safely happen. The city is disappointed in Carly Pearce’s decision.”
However, the publicist for Carly Pearce disputes these claims. In a statement to WHAS11, the publicist claims,
The overwhelming consensus and suggestion from officials—including local law enforcement and city staff—was to cancel out of an abundance of caution and concern for safety of everyone involved or attending. This was a collective safety decision made by all parties to cancel, and never was there any request made to Carly to go on early, as the weather was still a possible threat.
Also want to note that the weather forecast included lightning, which was a particularly important variable here as the stage itself is on a barge in the river.
Additionally, there has not been anything about future shows discussed with Carly or her team at all at this time.
Since the statement from the Carly Pearce publicist directly disputes what Jeffersonville city officials said, Saving Country Music reached out to the City of Jeffersonville for clarification, which said they are standing behind their original statements, and upon the advisement of their legal department would not be offering any further comments at this time. Saving Country Music also reached out to the Jeffersonville Police Department, which said that the matter was in the jurisdiction of city officials.
Some in Jeffersonville and beyond defended Carly Pearce’s decision to not perform due to safety concerns, while many of her fans rushed in to also offer their support. The top comment on Facebook reads, “It was a free show. Canceling a show due to potentially very dangerous weather is the right thing to do for herself, her band and crew and equipment, and, more importantly, her fans. She may have considered returning at another date, though, given the backlash, I doubt it. Let’s work on our PR a bit Jeffersonville.”
As some pointed out, seven people were killed and another 58 injured after a stage collapsed during severe weather at a Sugarland concert at the Indiana State Fair in 2011. Officials were criticized for not cancelling the concert in that instance, and multiple lawsuits were found in favor of the victims, though the Jefforsonville Riverfront stage is more of a permanent structure as a river barge, making this less of a concern.
On June 21st, 100 people were injured and seven people were sent to the hospital when a hail storm hit the Red Rocks amphitheater in Colorado. Officials faced strong criticism for not cancelling the Louis Tomlinson performance in that instance.
Conversely, The Roostertail Music Festival was happening in Madison, Indiana, about 45 miles away from Jeffersonville on Saturday as well. The same storm system delayed headliners Blackberry Smoke from taking the stage at their scheduled time, but they eventually did perform starting after midnight and playing a full set. Taylor Swift also performed in Cincinnati on Saturday, and moved her start time an hour earlier for the weather, and got the show in without incident.
Some local fans and boosters in Jeffersonville feel that since it was a free concert promoted by the city as opposed to a ticketed event, Carly Pearce and/or her team did not take the performance seriously, and didn’t have the same urgency to fulfill the performance if tickets would have to be refunded, or the show rescheduled. If the concert had begun at 6 pm as opposed to the 7pm scheduled time, there would have been ample time to clear everyone out before weather arrived.
The situation highlights how in post COVID times, artists are more comfortable with cancelling performances, while safety concerns also seem to be more elevated for outdoor events, with events more often than not being cancelled or delayed out of an abundance of caution, and due to fears of liability concerns.
The possibility remains that Carly Pearce will reschedule the performance in Jeffersonville at a later date.