Hundreds of Jamey Johnson fans were turned away from the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Sunday night after the venue called off Johnson’s headlining show hours before doors were slated to open.
The cancellation was the result of a standoff between the outlaw-country singer and the nightclub chain, whose weapons policy prohibited Johnson’s team from bringing firearms into the venue’s backstage area. A rep for Johnson did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the situation remains cloudy. Here’s what we know about the cancelled show.
The gig was called off after Johnson and opening act Ray Scott were already at the venue.
When fans arrived at the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, they found a cancellation notice taped to the door. Others learned about the canned gig on Facebook, where the venue announced its decision in a public statement. “As always, the safety and security of our guests is our number one priority,” the House of Blues wrote on Sunday night. “Tonight’s artist refused to adhere to our safety and security guidelines and would not enter the building.”
The House of Blues’ no-guns rule applies to everyone — performers included.
The House of Blues chain’s parent company, Live Nation, has a firm no-weapons policy that applies to audience members and performers alike. The rule became even more ironclad earlier this year, following the deadly Manchester Arena bombing that killed 23 fans at an Ariana Grande concert. Johnson’s team allegedly took issue with the policy and, unwilling to leave their weapons on the bus, pushed the venue to choose between a well-attended show and a well-enforced security plan.
According to Johnson’s drummer, though, the real story is more complicated.
Tony TC Coleman, who toured alongside blues greats like BB King and Otis Clay for decades before joining Johnson’s lineup last year, shared his experiences on Facebook, writing in reply to the House of Blues’ public statement. “I stand with [Johnson] on this,” he said. “House of Blues didn’t need to treat us like we were terrorists. They put a [metal] detector between Jamey’s buses and the stage entrance and the only people coming in and out of his buses was us. His band and crew and we all have laminated stage identification. We did not come to House of Blues to be treated like we are going to kill the fans. If someone came backstage to harm anybody you better pray there is a Jamey Johnson type individual around.”
Before launching his music career, Johnson received nearly a decade’s worth of weapons training from the American government.
It remains unclear whether Johnson — who served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from 1995 through 2003, working as a mortar man and rising to the rank of corporal before completing his service — was carrying an actual weapon, or if he simply took issue with the venue’s refusal to allow legally-permitted firearms into the building.
Apart from the House of Blues and angry fans, no one’s talking.
A request to Johnson’s spokesperson was not returned, and opening act Ray Scott declined to speak on the record. The Sunday show remains cancelled, with refunds being offered by both Ticketmaster and the House of Blues. Some fans, meanwhile, were outraged over the cancellation, citing hotel, food and travel costs to the show. Others supported Johnson’s decision.
Meanwhile, the tour rolls on.
The final leg of Johnson’s summertime show schedule resumes this weekend, starting with — ironically enough — an appearance at the Peacemaker Music and Arts Festival in Fort Smith, Arkansas.