The Chainsmokers’ drive-in concert in tony Southampton, New York, an allegedly distant charity festival held on Saturday night, violated the terms of their permit and will likely face citations and fines from multiple city departments, according to Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.
Over 3,000 residents paid up to $25,000 to hear the EDM duo, featuring the subprime sounds of Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon’s DJ alter ego “DJ D-Sol.” The event, which had a permit from the town of Southampton, boasted a long list of precautionary measures: temperature checks upon entry, bathroom cleanings every 10 minutes, obligatory masks, ample sanitizer stations, and designated sitting spaces placed 20 feet apart.
“People signed COVID waivers promising they had not had [flu-like symptoms] for the last two weeks and that they had not been around anyone with COVID for two weeks,” said a rep for In The Know Experiences and Invisible Noise, which put on the event.
“This was a charitable event. It went through a permitting process for a drive-in event like a movie or a concert,” Schneiderman said. “The permit went through the police department and the town clerk. It was approved. They reviewed it with code compliance to make sure it met all of the requirements.”
But an Instagram post shared by the manager for the Chainsmokers, a group whose breakout song was called “#Selfie,” told a different story. In the video, shared widely Monday morning, a crowd had formed near the stage, as maskless attendees danced to frat-pop in hoards, spewing droplets with apparent abandon.
One source who worked with the organizers, but spoke on background, claimed the video was misleading. “The front section that everyone’s talking about––that was the friends and family section, if you will,” the source said. “There are rope expansions and steel barricades separating each section for groups of 10 people.”
But Schneiderman said the permit had not allowed for any front section, family or otherwise. “Unfortunately, the organizer did not adhere strictly to the permit,” he said. “Somewhere during the evening they opened a VIP area near the stage. That wasn’t in the permit. The permit was for the cars on a very big field. I’m as upset as anyone that that happened. They likely will be cited for that violation.”
Not long after the video spread on social media, the New York State Department of Health sent Schneiderman a letter, first reported by Syracuse.com, alerting him to an investigation into the concert. “I am greatly disturbed by reports concerning the ‘drive-in’ concert held in your town this past weekend, which apparently involved thousands of people in close proximity, out of their vehicles, a VIP area where there was no pretense of a vehicle, and generally not adhering to social distancing guidance,” Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker wrote. “I am at a loss as to how the Town of Southampton could have issued a permit for such an event, how they believed it was legal and not an obvious public health threat.”
The letter gave the supervisor 24 hours to respond. He said several town departments are investigating action—over the unpermitted section, failure to comply with state-mandated social distancing, and crowd size, which had been projected in the permit to cap at 2,000 people. The organizers may also be fined for police overtime, as the department doubled their presence half-way through the night, once people began to gather in close groups. “There might be more than one citation,” he said. “The police are reviewing everything. So is the Town Office of Public Safety.”
“There might be more than one citation. The police are reviewing everything… ”
Schneiderman had come to the show to perform as an opener with his band. “We don’t have a name—we play under my name: The Jay Schneiderman Band or Jay Schneiderman’s Band. This is a relatively new band. This was all original. We were on stage for 30 minutes. With the exception of the closing song, which was a Joe Cocker tune—‘Feelin’ Alright’—if you know that song, everything else was original.”
While Schneiderman was playing, he says, the crowd had stayed distant, sitting in their cars or in the 20” x 20” grass squares allotted to the “Silver” and “Platinum” ticket buyers. When his set finished, Schneiderman prepared to leave. His ride home had gotten an allergy attack and needed to go before the concert ended. On his way out, he said, Schneiderman noticed the new section forming in front. He said he spoke with two security guards about the oversight, who told him they would alert their colleagues. But it was unclear if they did. “They were from the security company, not the police department,” Schneiderman said. “[The organizers] hired people from a private security company.”
“It’s sort of sad because we’re trying to find safe ways for people to be together,” he said. “We’re trying to comply with all the state rules. We’re trying to raise money for charity. You want something like this to be a success. You want to show them we can safely do things.”