Chainsmokers under fire amid investigation into concert’s COVID-19 violations

Andrew Taggart of the Chainsmokers
Andrew Taggart of the Chainsmokers. The Chainsmokers recently performed in Southampton, N.Y.
(Chadd Cady / San Diego Union-Tribune )

A controversial concert headlined by EDM duo the Chainsmokers is under investigation — and sharp online scrutiny — after footage surfaced of attendees appearing to ignore safety guidelines amid the COVID-19 crisis.

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state Department of Health would investigate Saturday’s event in Southampton for “egregious social-distancing violations.” Provided Tuesday to the Los Angeles Times, a letter from the New York commissioner of health to the supervisor of the town of Southampton also warned of a “state department conducting an investigation.”

“I am appalled,” Cuomo tweeted, along with a video of a seemingly close-knit crowd filmed from the stage. “We have no tolerance for the illegal & reckless endangerment of public health.”

Event organizers at In the Know Experiences have pushed back against the criticism, telling Buzzfeed they “followed all proper and current protocol” and “collaborated with all state and local health officials to keep everyone safe.” They also claimed that temperature checks were administered upon entry to guests, who had access to face masks and hand sanitizer.


In the pit area, dividers also reportedly separated individual parties, and guests were not “allowed to leave their designed spots for any reason other than” to use the bathrooms, which were cleaned every 10 minutes, according to ITKE via Buzzfeed.

But videos and photos from the “Safe and Sound” concert, billed as a “drive-in fundraiser experience,” seem to show hundreds of people dancing relatively close together. In some images, dividers can be seen on the ground, and a few guests appear to be sitting atop their cars.

The opening act for the Chainsmokers was Goldman Sachs Chief Executive David Solomon, who DJs under the name D-Sol in his spare time, according to CNN.

“The vast majority of the audience appeared to follow the rules, but [Solomon is] troubled that some violated them and put themselves and others at risk,” a Goldman Sachs spokesperson said in a statement obtained by CNN.

With traditional live-music gatherings prohibited because of COVID-19, drive-in concerts have emerged as a safe, socially distant, better-than-nothing alternative.

July 21, 2020

On Monday, New York’s health commissioner, Howard Zucker, told Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman in a letter that he was “greatly disturbed” by Saturday’s activities.


“I am sure you are aware the State of New York is in a Declared State of Emergency, since March 7, 2020, due to the prevalence of COVID-19,” Zucker wrote in the letter provided to The Times. “I know you are aware of the many efforts this state has made in conjunction with many local governments to combat it. ...

“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 Chainsmokers and their fans also felt the wrath of Twitter, where the 2-second video shared by Cuomo and others went viral and sparked a backlash. Neither ITKE nor reps for the Chainsmokers responded Tuesday to inquiries from The Times.

“This is the first time where it’s like ‘would you have believed me 5 years ago if I told you chainsmokers would flaunt public health guidelines and perform to a crowd despite a viral pandemic that is killing hundreds of thousands’ and the answer is ‘yes,’” wrote New York Magazine’s Madison Malone Kircher.

“This irresponsibility of the chainsmokers having any sort of event in the current climate is absolutely appalling,” tweeted YouTuber Steven Walker. “I am not ok with you risking everyone’s lives just so they can watch you press a space bar all night.”

The internet also brought collective shame on the concertgoers — both for their pandemic choices and taste in music.

“Y’all risked corona.........for the ..... chainsmokers.......,” wrote @chisanashi in a tweet that has amassed more than 496,000 likes and 80,000 retweets.

A description of the concert on ITKE’s website says that all profits from the event will benefit Southampton Fresh Air Fund, No Kid Hungry and Children’s Medical Fund of New York.