SEVERAL Tamworth stages which would usually be bursting with country music sounds will stand silent and empty across the next two weeks, after yet another bitter blow for the industry.
More Tamworth venues have announced they have cancelled shows booked for what was shaping up to be a mini 'unofficial' Tamworth Country Music Festival.
The Tamworth Hotel, The Press 2340 and - to an extent - Tamworth Services Club have joined the Longyard Hotel and Wests Entertainment Group in cancelling country music events from this weekend.
Tamworth's homegrown music star Aleyce Simmonds said the feeling in the industry at the moment was "pretty low".
"I don't think any of us really know what to do, it's all so unknown," she told the Leader.
"COVID rid us of our careers all year and the festival being cancelled was bad enough, but for the gigs to be cancelled is another blow."
Ms Simmonds said while it was - to quote the great Slim Dusty - "the biggest disappointment", her heart went out to the businesses behind the bad news.
"The venues have had to make these decisions that they think are right and they can't be judged for that," she said.
"It's very disappointing but safety is imperative."
Despite another dark day for country music, Ms Simmonds said she was proud of how artists had "banded together", and said the Golden Guitar Awards going ahead would be a shining beacon of hope.
"We're all really looking forward to catching up ... it really is the pinnacle of the year and a chance to celebrate music created over the year," she said.
"2020 taught us all who to focus on, taught us all what's important and what isn't, that's certainly what I've learnt."
The Tamworth Hotel cancelled several shows during the next two weeks, The Press 2340 pulled the plug on its events, and the Tamworth Services Club decided to can all free shows.
The Tamworth Hotel's Luke Prout said the venue had been warned there would be a "zero tolerance" approach taken by local authorities if COVID breaches were spotted during increased "scrutiny".
Honestly, it was the pressure from the community and we just wanted to listen to their concerns.Luke Prout, The Tamworth Hotel
Although he was confident in the COVID-safe plan at the hotel - which has been hosting live music events since November - it came down to what Tamworth wanted.
"Honestly, it was the pressure from the community and we just wanted to listen to their concerns ... and fall in line with the other venues," he told the Leader.
"The community want to err on the side of caution and we respect that."
He said kicking the artists off stage was difficult.
"I think musicians and artists are the most understanding out of everybody, it is heartbreaking ...and this is another kick," Mr Prout said.
"But they are extremely supportive and very understanding and we will be there for them no matter what."
The Tamworth Country Music Festival 2021 was officially cancelled last year amid COVID-19, and a smaller, venue-led event was expected to take place in the next two weeks.
The Destination Tamworth website has a list of all the places fans can still head to for some country music action.