Hacks

I gave up watching “Startup.”

The truth is Edi Gathegi, playing Ronald Dacey, is so good, he almost carries the entire show. The first season is pulp, but better than your usual network/cable fare, so I hung in there. I also liked the story re the startup, it was up to date, hip, despite being first released back in 2016.

The second season is rescued by Ron Perlman. It’s rewarding to watch a great actor perform. But the story starts to get wacky.

Then the third season goes completely off the rails. Ridiculous. Furthermore, I kept waiting for Mira Sorvino, wondering when she was going to appear, and when she didn’t I did more research. She’s had so much plastic surgery that she now looks like a generic blonde, she’s got Leeza Gibbons disease, never mind her accent fading in and out. I wish women would accept their god-given assets. Imperfections are hooks, they’re what make people interesting, they add character. Then again, in a looks-based society, we can’t talk about looks, we don’t appear woke. The truth is there are so many rules before one can open their mouth that oftentimes people don’t speak at all, except maybe to their close confidantes. So I’ve been struggling to make it through season three, but I keep wincing and stopping, I may never finish.

So I keep combing the recommendations. There are very few I can trust. Like “Lupin,” which I avoided upon initial release, but we dove into last night. When the main character evaded numerous police people on his bicycle, I turned it off. Not only did the show have no gravitas, no deeper meaning, it was not remotely believable. In a world where everything is available, why not go to the peak, why not experience the best? I keep checking out these shows people rave about to me, like “Startup,” and then it has me second-guessing their taste, their desires, who they are. I mean if you watched all of “Startup” and raved…you’re brain-dead, or have very low standards, or both.

So another person recommended “Hacks.” It’s very watchable, but not great. I mean not in the league of “Ramy” or “Master of None,” never mind its HBO Max colleague “Love Life.” You get the story right up front and you keep waiting for them to go deeper, to take it all more seriously, but they do not. The characters are two-dimensional, like Deborah Vance’s assistant Marcus. And her housekeeper. The only person who is three-dimensional is Jean Smart, and her performance is so good, so astounding, that I recommend you watch this ten episode series just to see it.

So what you’ve got here is Jean Smart’s Deborah Vance, a Vegas hack, doing the same tired comedy show every night, living like a queen in the desert.

And then Hannah Einbinder as Ava Daniels, a Hollywood TV writer who blew herself up with a tweet and now can’t get work and ends up working with Smart.

Einbinder is miscast. Sure, in real life she’s a Gen-Z’er, but somehow we just don’t believe her in the role. She’s kind of walking through it, reacting, instead of evidencing a true character that goes through transition. Oh, I get it, she goes from self-centered to aware, but the backstory with her parents is so cardboard…she chews the scenery with them. And when she gets offended… She’s not constantly strident, she just blows the Gen-Z whistle occasionally, you don’t quite get her. Not that she evidences great comedy chops in the role either. I mean as the character. Then again, you’ve got to blame the writers/creators of this show, they had a concept, old hack encounters young Gen-Z’er, but not much more. So much of the story is so basic, or so over the top, as to not raise a hackle, not make you laugh, not make you care. Maybe the problem is not completely Einbinder’s, but I’d like to have seen someone more sour, a little more enmeshed in the Gen-Z ethos, more of a foil to Deborah Vance than a wandering wastrel.

But as predictable as the actions of all the surrounding characters are, Smart’s are not, she’s always surprising you, weaving, jabbing, smiling, she keeps you on your toes, just like a real person. She’s self-aware under the veneer, she knows the score, when seemingly no one else in this show does, other than maybe her casino boss foil, Christopher McDonald, who himself is so two-dimensional he might as well be a cartoon.

Smart has had to reinvent herself, suffer humiliation, and she keeps going. She may look like a hack on the surface, but she knows her business through and through, and she keeps doing it, because it’s the only thing she can rely on, having created it herself. She’s the Energizer Bunny, and true Ava pulls back the layers a bit, but the in reality all she does is crack Smart’s shell, because underneath it she was always gooey, in motion, flowing, knowing the score.

And Smart holds grudges. Enough with the b.s. of closure, you can’t close, you can only try to forget. Believe me, not the bozos you see on TV or the dreck you read in self-help books. You cannot forget the past, no way, no matter what anybody else says, you try to fill up your life with the new to crowd the past out, but it comes to you at night while you lie in bed with your head on your pillow, unsuccessfully trying to fall asleep…it may be solely interior dialogue, but you know the truth. And the truth is people play with your emotions willy-nilly, they’re duplicitous, and Smart is not eager to forgive, living well is the best revenge, but it is lonely.

And Smart fights for herself.

And she’s got a speech about show business while she and Ava are stuck in the desert that’s so right I wish all the wannabes could see it. About the hard work it takes to make it, and how you have to continue to work hard just to keep your head above water. Sure, you were famous once, but people forget. As for Deborah Vance being on the cover of “Time” in 1991, having a hit comedy series…Ava isn’t even aware of it, IT WAS FIFTY YEARS AGO!

Come on, are today’s Gen-Z’ers gonna be familiar with “Three’s Company”? Never mind going down the slate to shows I can barely remember. Life is long, as is a show business career, you’ve got to serve your audience, make people care, find other lines of business, work publicity, do all this stuff you don’t want to just to stay alive.

As for Ms. Smart…

She was the fourth banana in “Designing Women.” I could never quite figure out what role she played, how she fit in, but I only watched the show a handful of times. And she was tall and blonde and I couldn’t feel the glamor, nor the charisma, and couldn’t get it.

And then this spring the publicity machine kicked in, because of her appearance in “Mare of Easttown” and this, “Hacks.” And Smart didn’t really gain her footing in “Mare of Easttown” until near the end. But she hits the ground running in “Hacks,” she’s a marvel, she keeps you watching.

She’s got the front for the public.

But she’s running a corporation, she’s everybody’s meal ticket.

And she’s got a floundering daughter, who turns out to have gone to Cornell, one of the great lines in the show, but who just can’t make a living. Kaitlin Olson as DJ…she’s very attractive, just not a Hollywood 10. And she’s smart, but she’s been burdened by having a famous mother and access to too much money. And her mother Deborah gives her rope, let’s DJ think she can make it on her own, when in truth she’s the one providing the meal ticket. Also, DJ feels Deborah is controlling, but the truth is Deborah truly has DJ’s best interests at heart. Then again, DJ’s resentment runs deep, going on the road with her mother as a child and…the public owns Deborah, DJ doesn’t.

So what you’ve got here is one character carrying a second-rate show. And Smart is better than any of the “Friends,” she’s in Seinfeld territory, but even better she’s playing a role rarely seen these days…successful older female entertainer doing it her way. Smart looks her age. Oh, not when they photograph her for magazine stories, she gets made up, but in the house, in her regular life… The show is not selling Smart’s sex appeal, but her intelligence. And sure, Smart goes on a little journey, she gains some awareness, but she wipes the floor with Gen-Z’er Ava not because she doesn’t believe in the tropes of the younger generation, but because she knows what’s real, she’s lived her life, she’s going forward completely aware, in truth there’s not much Ava can teach her, and unfortunately, not much Deborah can even react to…yes, we get occasional Gen-Z mores, but we needed more, or a different show.

Who had any idea Jean Smart was this good?

And unlike vaunted actresses like Meryl Streep, you can’t see her acting. She’s not controlled and mannered, or fake laughing, she seems totally real.

I think we might switch to watching movies, we seem to have exhausted the A-level streaming series. Then again, “Bosch” is coming back on the 25th, and you never know what is in the pipeline, and yes, character development is so much better in series. But life is too short to watch entertainment, I just don’t want to go on the ride, I want to have an experience, one I can’t get anywhere else, where I learn something, where I marvel at the top-notch work of those involved.

Jean Smart has given the best performance of the year. She far eclipses Kate Winslet, everybody in the aforementioned “Mare of Easttown,” I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen acting this good.

Oh, I don’t want to overhype you, just watch “Hacks” to see.

Saxophone Songs-SiriusXM This Week

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Tune in today, June 15th, to Volume 106, 7 PM East, 4 PM West.

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Re-Vaccinations/Concerts/Showing Up

It’s funny that the “stay home if you are scared of the virus, let us live our lives” crowd is now the “I’m scared of the vaccine, but don’t put limits on me” crowd.  It’s the same people who said private businesses don’t have to serve a gay couple a wedding cake, but when a private business says they need a vaccine, they lose their shit.

Jake Jacobs

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UK government have been trying to bury the facts – watch out! Don’t underplay the risk.

From the esteemed
Deepti Gurdasani @dgurdasani1

Jun 11

PHE report on variants just out. Highlights: -more than 90% of cases across England now delta -delta ~66% more transmissible -Most cases are in school age children -30% deaths were among fully vaccinated and 17% in partly vaccinated -cases of delta sublineage with K417N mutation

https://nitter.skrep.in/dgurdasani1/status/1403293582279294983#m

Linden Coll

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I’m a vaccinated boomer in PA. I just watched a Crowded House show that was recorded in New Zealand in spring with a full audience.  Excellent show.  Envious of everyone down under.

I have tickets to see James Taylor and Jackson Browne indoors in early August. I’m still on the fence about going. No sign of requiring proof of vaccination here. We’ll see what happens with variants between now and then. Right now Pittsburgh is seeing 15-20 positives a day.

I wouldn’t go to a movie theater to see any movie. Too many knuckleheads.

Harold Love

Pittsburgh, PA

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I understand that I’m not talking about the kind of ticket sales, venues or turnouts that you are BUT I will tell you that the venues I have played so far since most things have opened back up (small theaters and small city events) have been at full capacity. Not only that but the crowds have been incredibly amped for the show.

Taking It To The People

Jack Ingram

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Just for your reference went to a Cardinals baseball game because I’m vaccinated. No vaccine card needed. This is Missouri.

Bought a ticket to a Yankees game in New York. They said Vaccine card is required.

You can see where both are on the list.

Michael Barber

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I’m vaccinated, and live in a blue island (Dallas) in a red state (Texas). I’m going to concerts, but I’ll be wearing a mask for the rest of the year and until the infection rate slows to a trickle.

Charles McGarry

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Bravo!  Excellent summary of the current live entertainment shit storm.  I ordered 6 plastic sleeves to protect my vaccine card and they came with 6 blank vaccine cards-that are identical to the one I received when I got vaccinated.  So those pseudo vaccine cards are meaningless. Hmmm-testd.com there a bunch of new startups vying for a slice-the race is on!

Harvey Leeds

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Leave it to these times to have me praising James Dolan, of all people, for making MSG, Radio City Music Hall and Beacon Theatre vax-only for concerts this far.

That’s an exception to the rule, however. Because state regulations are ever-changing and – more importantly – almost no one wants to offend the anti-vaxxers with sound policies, venues are by and large not communicating ANY policy information. This leads to audience uncertainty and, taking a look at many of these seating maps, way undersold venues.  Mostly outdoors, where it’s supposed to be safer!  Hell, I found out a venue was vax-only from a radio station website.  The actual venue website?  Nada.

The other dirty little secret: very few truly major acts are touring this summer.  What other headliners are going to sell out arenas & stadiums besides Foo Fighters and Garth Brooks, respectively?  Take a look at the seating charts; Ticketmaster and AXS both let you see how much inventory there is.  No one else is consistently killing it until Genesis knocks over their Last Domino in Q4.  So maybe it’s less about a return to normalcy/ reclaiming what once was and more about the acts themselves. People aren’t going to show up to something (and potentially risk their lives) unless it’s great.

The venues are mostly quiet, Live Nation is going with whatever the local rules are.  So, the acts must lead the way. Dead & Co is requiring vaccine to be in the pit. You figure after decades of ingesting substances, this crowd would have no issue getting a shot, but idiocy cuts across all demographics…

Springsteen may have moved his E Street tour into 2022, but is doing 30 Broadway dates at a larger theatre than last time and requiring vaccination.

Look to the cookie, Bob.  Look to the acts.  Can they lead?  Yes.  Will they?  We’ll see.

Dave Conklin

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Here in Nashville, it’s wide open even in the ultra-left arts-centric community of East Nashville—Covid’s over. No masks, no distancing, full capacity.

I’m not sure how I could’ve been any more careful throughout the pandemic, taking every last little tiny precaution and never ever (ever) going out. I STILL haven’t set foot in a grocery store. But I got double-vaxxed as early as I possibly could without cutting in line, and when the CDC said fully vaccinated people can go anywhere without masks, I found myself lapsing into “Good enough for me!” mode along with everybody else.

As far as I can tell, the thinking in Music City is that if you’re vaccinated and you come into contact with the virus at a concert, you will either not get it, or get it and not experience symptoms. And as long as all your friends and loved ones are vaccinated, too, then what’s to worry about?

Doesn’t feel super-great that we’re letting our guards down to such an extent, when for all we know a variant from hell could pop up and wipe us all out, vaccinated or not…but looks like that’s where we are!

Dean Moore

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Unfortunately, too many people will lie to get into whatever it is they want to go to.  No one is taking away their right to not get vaccinated but if you don’t want to get vaccinated, be a man (so to speak) and take responsibility that you can get someone very, very sick. So, DON’T Go where having a vaccine is required.

I don’t think the red states would have any more trouble filling up an arena concert,  than they’ve had filling up restaraunts indoors and beaches outdoors.

The only question is which promoters go for the bucks and which make sure they’re not held responsible for any possibility someone got someone else sick with Covid at the show.

Annie Roboff

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Mass shootings – another deterrent. Not to mention social media inspired brawls.

Tom Quinn

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Reality will strike @ will. Then the fools will look to blame everybody else but themselves. Stupid is as Stupid does A virus doesn’t play by the rules Nor does it care how you vote or where you live. Just that your body be available to be a host for it

Kevin Sutter

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After 21 years of touring, I’m not sure I’m ready to get back on the road full-time yet. Between the lack of sleep, constant changing of locations, unhealthy air, and close contact with numerous people, it’s inevitable that at some point someone is going to get sick. What do you do if someone on your bus catches Covid? I’ve gotten the shots, and while they improve your odds and outcome, they’re not 100%. I’ve heard of vaccination requirements for crew for some upcoming tours, but with so many people from all over coming in and out for various reasons, it’s going to be hard to track. Do I want to risk my or my family’s health? I can’t imagine I’m the only one feeling that way.

Nothing would make me happier than to see the great re-emergence of music this year, but it’s still way too early to make any predictions on how it will play out. I’m cautiously optimistic, with the emphasis on cautious.

Josh Cohen

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Based on what we are seeing in Kansas City there’s absolutely no hesitation from anyone. Shows and bars are PACKED inside and out!

Michael Edmondson

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I absolutely love concerts, I am fully vaccinated but at 63 I think I’ll wait until 2022 before I take a chance at concerts!! As for a vaccine passports I think it will be a necessity at concerts, flying and many other areas.

Doug Gillis

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This may seem callous but here’s my take on it. It’s obvious that many Trumpers are never going to get vaccinated. Now if you believe the science, if you’re vaccinated you’re protected. Yes you can apparently still contract covid but it should be fairly benign. So if that’s the case then maybe it’s time to stop worrying about those who refuse to take it. Again if science is correct they are the ones at risk, not the vaccinated, so do we or should we really care if they get sick.

There is always a price to pay for freedom of choice….let’s just let them pay it.

Greg Stroh

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L A concerts for the fall of 2021 seem to be selling out. Try to get tickets for Bleachers at the Palladium. There aren’t any except resales!

I got vaccinated so i feel safe now. I will go to concerts! I never did get sick and I’m 75 years old.

The country is going to open up completely in the very near future. Anyone who wants to get vaccinated can easily do it now, for free!!!

If people don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s on them. Tough luck if they get sick or die.

Larry Green

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I have a ticket to

Bruno Mars in Vegas late July…booked the trip about 5 weeks ago…live on Maui…fully vaccinated…was more jazzed when I booked it than I am now but…I’m going for sure…

Tom Clark

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I see my first indoor show in a small venue in July. Aquarium Rescue unit. Can’t wait. Stay safe. I am fully vaxxed and wear a mask when inside public places. I got Covid in December my closing sale of my brothers business. He and purchaser and purchasers lawyer were unmasked and I was dumb. It was not too bad (I like you have compromised immune e system) but I don’t need it again. Stay safe.

Michael Becker

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Hi Bo , UFC in Glendale, Arizona, United States had over 17000 last night !!! wonder if cases will develop from that ?

John Kieselhorst

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As for the cruise passengers, I know someone who was traveling with the 2 positive people in question. They were vaccinated a while before the sailing. They tested negative within 72 hours prior to boarding, then tested positive a few days into the cruise and were asymptomatic. They were quarantined to their room and contact tracing began along with follow up testing of all passengers. They were flown home at the next port in an air ambulance. It was fully contained.

As for concerts, some big name comedians have announced shows near me and prices are sky high. Springsteen back on Broadway this summer is charging up to $850 for good seats. I’m ready to return to live shows – my sister in law is going to The Foos at the Garden and it wasn’t easy getting a ticket – but am concerned there is pent up demand by audiences, and bands may want to cash in right now. Prices were already ridiculous before the pandemic. The vaccine situation certainly adds another layer of complexity to the situation.

Joanne Garroway

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Broadway actually is the place in live entertainment where the seats are tightest, lobbies are tiny, vent systems ancient,  dressing-rooms shared, bathrooms packed, more ppl and musicians performing — and margins the slimmest. This reopening is the test.

Deb Wilker

But Will They Show Up?

Last night Felice journeyed to her sister’s house for an “In the Heights” viewing party (I did not go, I still do not have enough B-cells to retake the vaccine). After eating Mexican food and Marie Callender’s pies, six fully vaccinated people sat in front of the 75″ OLED screen and watched the movie on HBO Max.

They did not go to the theatre.

Today’s film business story is how “In the Heights” underperformed at the box office. Expectations were $20+ million, it did $11.4 million, it was eclipsed by “A Quiet Place Part II” in its third weekend, which pulled in $11.7 million.

The autopsy has begun.

When did a film musical recently do well?

Was the theatre number undercut by streaming?

We can analyze it all day long, but the question is…will people show up to concerts?

As for “In the Heights”…this is another project that will have legs, will be performed at high schools. We’ve seen this time and again, musicals permeate society slowly.

But how slowly will people return to concerts?

Let’s call a spade a spade, if one can still use that statement, the concert business is afraid of the Trumpers, the right wing, as a matter of fact, the entire left is afraid of the Trumpers. They don’t want to enrage the same people who stormed the Capitol on January 6th, a great percentage of them who were not poor working class people, but upper middle class wealthy people, some even flew in on private jets.

Piss off the right and they’re very vocal. And they vote, just ask Joe Manchin.

Furthermore, the right is an echo chamber. Unappealing news never makes it to the airwaves, unless it’s worthy of ridicule. And if there is something worth making fun of, it’s like raw meat thrown to hungry dogs, this is Tucker Carlson’s entire act.

Not that I wish to go deep into political issues, I’m just setting the landscape, what happens when concerts go back up, will people show up, or be too afraid?

Don’t tell me that the tickets already sold. Some of those people will want refunds. They haven’t wanted refunds in the past fifteen months because they thought when the shows ultimately played, Covid would be over, a non-issue, but it’s not.

Now the truth is the recorded music business skews young. But not necessarily concerts. People may not have a subscription to Spotify, may still listen to their CDs, not having purchased one in eons, but they’ll lay down cash to see James Taylor with Jackson Browne. Will it be safe?

The truth is it’s not safe in a plethora of red states. Where vaccination rates are exceptionally low, compared to those in the blue states.

The highest vaccination rate is in Vermont, with 71% of people 18+ fully vaccinated, with 83% having had at least one dose.

The lowest? Mississippi, with 36% having had both doses, 45% having had one.

Let’s see, what other states are at the bottom of the chart…

Moving up, you next find Alabama, Louisiana, Wyoming, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arkansas, Idaho, South Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, Indiana, Oklahoma, North Dakota, North Carolina, Montana, Ohio, Nevada, Texas, Arizona, Kentucky, Alaska, Kansas…

And just because I know you’re interested, from the top down, after Vermont, we have Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maine, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, California, Maryland, New Hampshire, Washington, New York, Illinois, Virginia, Minnesota, Delaware, Colorado, Oregon, Wisconsin, Nebraska, South Dakota…

Now if you’ve been reading the news, amongst unvaccinated populations, infection rates are the same as they were in January. Which means Covid-19 is not necessarily raging in low-vaccinated states, but in low vaccinated areas, which can be patches of blue states as well as red. But the bigger the unvaccinated population is…

As for young people?

Vaccinations rates are even worse. And these are the most carefree concertgoers, these are the people who partied in Florida during the height of the epidemic. They’ll show up, but will they be sick, and will others get sick?

So the question arises… Are concert promoters going to require proof of vaccination to get into the show?

So far, small shows are doing this. And now, the Foo Fighters’ June 20th show at Madison Square Garden too. But that’s in New York, a state which has the Excelsior Pass. How about when shows start spreading throughout the country?

Not that people are not bitching about the requirement at MSG. I point you here: 

“Some fans turn against Foo Fighters after hearing concert-goers need proof of vaccination”: https://lat.ms/3iF1Feb

But wait, it gets even more complicated… There were only 12 days to meet the requirement that you’d been vaccinated 14 days before. So, if you hadn’t gotten the jab yet, you were SOL. Meaning short notice shows have even more issues.

But the Foos sell out at the Garden no problem.

As a matter of fact, they sell out almost everywhere.

But not everybody does this. Some acts are still developing their audience. They depend on people to show up to make the numbers, that ultimately mean whether the promoter can get paid enough to pay them a significant guarantee.

Now the indie promoters in red states… That’s an issue, but let’s address the larger outfits, like Live Nation and AEG…what are they gonna do?

Everybody wants someone else to take the heat, but now the flames are entering the kitchen of the concert business.

Now Governor Newsom just announced a vaccine verification program. But in the metropolis, California is quite blue.

As for the red states…

This is a significant issue. Exacerbated by the anti-vaccine rhetoric which has impeded the ascension to herd immunity, the latest thought is we’ll never get there. Go to a show and get infected? Not me. But one thing we know for sure, if you go to the show and you get Covid-19 you’re not going to sit at home and say “dem’s the breaks,” you’re going to be looking for someone to pay, and that means the promoter, the building, the act, everyone with a deep pocket. Sure, some people will accept their fate, but enough won’t to cause fear and chaos in the marketplace.

Now you might have seen this report:

“2 passengers on Celebrity Millennium cruise test positive for coronavirus”: https://cnn.it/2RSMLpW

So what really happened here? Were the passengers truly vaccinated, or did they fake it? And how did they get it, from the unvaccinated children on board? And who might they infect once they get home, never mind when they fly there on the airplane. And the vaccine is 90% effective, but that does not mean you’ll never get Covid-19, even though the symptoms should be less.

Concerts were the first to go, and they’re the last to reappear, because of the close contact of attendees. Are they coming back too fast? Do more precautions need to be taken? Does a united front need to be established?

If you’re following the story, and most people aren’t doing so closely, having Covid-19/news fatigue, the new Delta variant, raging through India, is now here in America, which has resulted in this:

“Southern states have a ‘real vulnerability’ to Delta Covid variant this summer, warns Dr. Peter Hotez”: https://cnb.cx/3iL5jDk

And if you’ve been following the analysis, infection rates were lower in the south because being warm in the winter, people were outside more, as opposed to inside in the northeast. But now that it’s getting hotter…they’re migrating inside to air-conditioned spaces, and in these closed environments infection rates rise.

But most people want to go to concerts. Red and blue, young and old. Seemingly everybody wants the experience. But once shows ramp up, are they going to take the risk? Are boomers really going to come pouring out of the woodwork to pay the highest prices and ultimately attend? And are youngsters going to come and be sick?

So what you’ve got is a political issue that becomes a health issue that lands in the lap of the concert industry.

Let the games begin.