People everywhere are doing their part to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). But one country artist recently found himself in a rather frightening situation with a fan, who got too close to him at a concert.
Singer-songwriter Clayton Gardner of Austin, Texas, was entertaining fans in nearby Irving on Friday (July 17). As he was strumming on his acoustic guitar, an unidentified woman, who wasn’t wearing a face covering, jumped onstage to request a song by Lee Ann Womack.
Gardner, who was live-streaming the event via Facebook, seemed entirely caught off guard by the close encounter. So he did what seemed reasonable in the age of COVID-19, and asked the woman to keep a distance.
“Okay, cool. If you could [request a song] from, like, seven feet away, that would be cool,” Gardner tells her in the above clip, which he posted to his personal Facebook page. The woman did not acknowledge Gardner’s request, and instead proceeded to work her way around the singer and place a hand on his chair.
“Are you for real right now? Please get away from me. Please. You’re embarrassing yourself, not me,” Gardner told the woman.
Refusing to take Gardner seriously, the woman then grabbed hold of his red bandana, which was tied around his neck. Gardner, who detailed the whole incident on social media, claims she also intentionally coughed on him at that time.
“She made a request for an artist, and I asked her to please get away from me several times,” the singer explains in the accompanying text alongside his video. “She then proceeded to grab me by my bandana and cough on me.
“I have practiced very safe hygiene and socially distanced myself from the start of COVID-19 to protect my 3-year-old daughter. In a matter of seconds, this lady took that away from me,” he adds, before noting, “I was honestly shocked and pretty defenseless sitting there holding my guitar … I would much rather be at home, but unfortunately, I have to play some gigs to pay my bills.”
As seen in the video, Gardner tried to ask for assistance to get the unnamed fan offstage so he could continue to perform safely; however, he later explained that the people working at Texican Court Hotel weren’t able to respond quickly enough, as they were “stunned” and “didn’t know how to react.” However, Gardner insists, “it’s not the venue’s fault.”
Nonetheless, the video has sparked outrage on social media, with fans taking aim at both the unidentified woman and the venue where Gardner played.
“The venue should’ve done something right away,” one fan says. “She had no mask on. Wow. [I] hope you’re alright.”
“I do hope that she was escorted out of the event,” another fan writes.
Gardner followed up his video with a series of posts pleading with his followers to not make the story a “political issue” or “blame the venue.” He also thanked his fans for their support over what he is calling an “isolated incident.”
“Thank you guys for your kind words. I am fine. Please don’t make this a political issue. This has nothing to do with politics. I see people hating on other people too much. Enough of that,” he writes. “Although it is a very small minority, I have heard that this was a fake, PR stunt, I’m apparently a crazy liberal because I wear a mask … Just insanity. I shared it because I am tired of seeing people act like this.
“This was actually at a really nice venue. Everyone else had a great time. COVID-19 is what made this situation unacceptable for me,” he continues. “I love playing music. I can wear a mask if I want to. I wear one because I care about you and the people you love. I can take the virus seriously if I so choose to do so. I should be able to come home to my daughter safely after playing for you guys. I am just trying to make an honest living like the rest of you.”
On Monday (July 20), Gardner turned to Facebook again to let fans know that the unnamed woman, who invaded his personal space, had reached out to apologize for her actions. He has accepted her apology and hopes fans won’t try to search for her to find out who she is.
“She sent me a lengthy apology. I accept her apology,” he says in the video. “She made a mistake, and we’ve all made mistakes, and I think that it’s okay to show her a little grace and forgiveness.”
Gardner says he’s currently isolating himself from his daughter while at home as an extra precaution until he feels comfortable enough to be near his child again.
“I’m going to choose the high road here, and forgive and forget. It is what it is. It happened, and that’s the end of it,” he says. “I appreciate everybody’s support, and I hope everybody’s just nicer to people. That’s really all it comes down to.”
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