The city of Sandy Springs drew a huge and largely maskless crowd to an April 30 concert featuring Atlanta band Drivin N Cryin that was intended to celebrate a loosening of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions — and teased a “Rediscover the Arts” season announcement for May 28.

The crowd begins gathering at City Green for the Drivin N Cryin concert April 30. (Phil Mosier)

The City Council earlier in the month made the deliberately attention-getting decision to open the debut “City Green Live” concert series event to everyone with no requirements for mask-wearing, social distancing or attendance limits, a move that caused disagreement on the council and defied Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. 

Drivin N Cryin takes the stage. The lineup features, from left, guitarist Laur Joamets, drummer Dave V. Johnson, lead singer and guitarist Kevn Kinney, and bassist Tim Nielsen. (Phil Mosier)

The roughly 1,500 people who attended the free concert over the course of the evening at the City Green park at the City Springs civic center were greeted with a few warnings. The city had several people holding signs encouraging mask-wearing, distancing and hand-washing. Mayor Rusty Paul in welcoming comments to the crowd emphasized the celebratory, reopening atmosphere while adding that the pandemic was not over and that mask-wearing and distancing around strangers were good ideas. But the vast majority of attendees did not wear masks and distancing was not much different from pre-pandemic times.

Mayor Rusty Paul gestures to the crowd while introducing the concert, using a hand fan promoting an upcoming arts season announcement. (Phil Mosier)

No pandemic precautions were legally required for the event under the latest emergency order from Gov. Brian Kemp, which was issued the same day as the show. That order requires “live performance venues” to take various measures to limit COVID-19 among employees but places no requirements on attendees, while leaving venues and performers free to make their own rules.

Ariel Moody was among seven “freelancers” paid to walk around the concert area holding signs suggesting pandemic precautions of mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing. Most attendees remained maskless. (Phil Mosier)

However, the concert defied the latest CDC guidelines, issued three days before the show. Those guidelines recommend mask-wearing for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people who “attend a crowded, outdoor event, like a live performance, parade or sports event.” For unvaccinated people, such a concert is considered among the “least safe” activities, the CDC guidelines say.

A view from the terrace of City Hall as the crowd gathers on City Green. (Phil Mosier)

Sandy Springs is proceeding with the precaution-free approach to “City Green Live” and another series, “Concerts by the Springs,” which begins May 9 at the nearby Heritage Green. However, indoor arts events in its massive Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center — including two theaters — remain dormant. The pandemic has been a big blow for City Springs, which opened in 2018 with the arts as a centerpiece, from the theaters to sculpture gardens.

Singer-songwriter Wyatt Rollins opens the show. (Phil Mosier)

Paul said the “Rediscover the Arts” season announcement is now pending for May 28 and in a later Facebook post said it will include performances in the two theaters, as well as a new membership program. The major tenant of the Byers Theatre, the biggest arts space in the Performing Arts Center, is the City Springs Theatre Company. CSTC is currently performing the musical “Mamma Mia!” outdoors at the Ameris Amphitheatre in Alpharetta, but has scheduled “West Side Story” for July dates at a venue to be announced.

Patrons at tables were seated in the front for the show, with lawn seating in the rear. (Phil Mosier)

For updates and more information about City Springs arts programming, see citysprings.com.

Photos and reporting by Phil Mosier