Cover Band Throws 'Protest' Concert to Dodge Coronavirus Restrictions

Led Zeppelin tribute band Zeptune's recent San Diego show is the latest event organizers have labeled a protest in order to justify a public gathering.
July 28, 2020, 5:39pm

Zeptune is a San Diego-based Led Zeppelin tribute band who have been described by one reviewer as "proficient as what they do," whose website seems to have borrowed its header graphic from a plumbing contractor, and who were welcomed by literally tens of people who turned up for a California concert that was presented as some kind of protest.

Earlier this month, San Diego County was among the California counties that were instructed to close indoor activities at a number of businesses, including gyms, "non-critical" offices, hair salons, barbershops, and the interior stores in shopping malls, in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants, wineries, and some "family entertainment centers" were allowed to move their operations outdoors, if possible, but their indoor offerings were ordered to shut down again. Live theater performances, nightclubs, concerts, and festivals have remained closed, and there is currently no date for their return.

But Dale Curtsinger, the owner and headmaster of the San Diego Performance Academy, decided that since protests are allowed, he could just stage a concert on the roof of his music school on Saturday night and call it a protest.

Even worse, he decided to name this so-called protest "Music Matters," which wasn't a great choice because Music Matters is the name of an almost decade-long collaboration between the Arts Education Partnership and the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) that studies the impact of music education on children. It also seems like an attempt to belittle or cheapen the Black Lives Matter movement, while pretending that a hastily assembled parking lot concert has the same level of importance as protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Anyway, Curtsinger said that the protest-slash-Zeptune show was totally legal because he can't find any information that says otherwise. “I can’t find the law I’m actually breaking,” he told NBC San Diego. “I cannot find a place where it says you cannot sing and dance.” (Well buddy, you can look at the County's website where it specifically says that concerts "are still closed.")

The news outlet estimates that between "three to four dozen" attendees watched the show from lawn chairs or from their cars. The concert was promoted on Facebook—specifically _as a concert_—and did not mention any social distancing requirements that would be in place, nor did it encourage face coverings. One attendee put on a mask before speaking to the NBC San Diego reporter; she also said that "people are also dying of the flu."

One San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputy reportedly stopped by the parking lot during the event, but did not take action against the organizers or stop the music, so to speak. ("From what we saw, it was outdoors, there were facial coverings, and they were socially distanced. We see no need to follow up with the organizers," a spokesperson for the County of San Diego said.)

Curtsinger isn't the first person to call his event a "protest"—with a big wink and a set of sarcastic air quotes—in order to tiptoe around statewide restrictions. In June, the Ace Speedway in Alamance County, North Carolina recategorized the CARS Tour Race At Ace 125 presented by as a "peaceful protest of injustice and inequality everywhere." An estimated 2,000 people attended that stock-car race, which was held in defiance of Governor Roy Cooper's requirement that outdoor gatherings had to be limited to 25 people, max.

After the governor's office sent several strongly worded letters to Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson—who initially refused to enforce the statewide executive order—Cooper responded by ordering the Speedway to shut down immediately, calling it an "imminent hazard" and "an acute threat to North Carolinians." As of this writing, Ace Speedway remains closed.

Back in California, Curtsinger says that similar events could be held in the same parking lot in the future. "I understand you can’t do it in an auditorium, you can’t do it right now in a club or a closed setting," he said. "We are outdoors. People are getting rid of a lot of stress right now and enjoying themselves, something they haven’t been able to do for four months."

On Saturday, San Diego County officials reported 283 new cases of coronavirus, bringing its total number of confirmed cases to 26,984, with 533 deaths since the pandemic began.