Gigs with guns: Does festival cancellation hint at a dangerous future for performers and audiences at major US music events?

US flag gun
(Image credit: Getty/Peter Dazeley)

A major music festival due to take place in Atlanta, Georgia has been cancelled in a move many are linking to the organisers' inability to legally bar firearms from the site.

More shows will be cancelled before concert-goers face the only-in-America absurdity of being allowed to pack heat but not bring bottled water into gigs

Music Midtown's announcement cited “circumstances beyond our control” and continues, “We were looking forward to reuniting in September and hope we can all get back to enjoying the festival together again soon.”

But while owner Live Nation has so far refused to confirm the reason for the cancellation, industry sources and local journalists were quick to link it to 2019's expansion of Georgia's 2014 "Guns Everywhere" law. 

The Safe Carry Protection Act gave residents the legal right to carry firearms in businesses with the owner’s permission but also, crucially, on publicly owned land, and 2019's ruling has made it impossible for private businesses on public land to withhold permission to carry.

As Music Midtown was to take place on state-owned Piedmont Park, it appears it would be impossible to prohibit firearms, or that gun-toting punters who failed to gain entry would be in a position to bring legal proceedings against Live Nation - exactly the scenario pro-gun campaigners would doubtless be keen to put themselves in.

The final decision to cancel followed a concerted campaign from pro-gun advocates emailing organisers and posting on Midtown Music's social media citing that 2019 ruling and warning that prohibition of weapons from the festival would indeed be subject to legal challenge.

This specific case is still playing out in Georgia, with major events players like the NFL, NCAA and Major League Baseball likely to wade into the legal fracas and Atlanta politicians decrying a claimed $50 million hit to the local economy

On the other side of the bullet-proof glass, pro-gun groups will be watching closely and, as ever, looking for any opportunities to advance their agenda within the state and, possibly, beyond.

But while artist riders increasingly specify gun-free audiences and major companies are unwilling to stage events where attendees have the right to bring weapons into venues, it seems likely that more shows will be cancelled before concert-goers face the you-couldn’t-make-it-up, only-in-America absurdity of being allowed to pack heat but not bring bottled water into gigs.

Will Groves

I'm lucky enough to be MusicRadar's Editor-in-chief while being, by some considerable distance, the least proficient musician on the editorial team. An undeniably ropey but occasionally enthusiastic drummer, I've worked on the world's greatest music making website in one capacity or another since its launch in 2007. I hope you enjoy the site - we do.