Boygenius performs in drag to protest anti-drag legislation in Tennessee

Phoebe Bridgers of Boygenius performs in drag
Phoebe Bridgers of Boygenius performs in drag at a concert in Nashville on Sunday.
(Bobby Kelly)

After the governor of Tennessee tried and failed to ban public drag shows in the state, Boygenius performed in drag Sunday during the group’s Nashville concert.

The indie-rock band played the Great Lawn in Centennial Park less than a month after a federal judge struck down a law criminalizing drag performances in Tennessee — the first law of its kind in the United States.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker determined that the legislation was “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad” after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed it into law.


Lizzo protested anti-drag-show legislation in Tennesee by inviting several drag queens onstage during her Knoxville concert.

April 23, 2023

“Today I’m so grateful for my life — not because I get to stand on a stage with my best friends ... but because I’m content with the person that I am,” Julien Baker of Boygenius told the crowd Sunday.

“I’ve found that I have a lot of anger for people who have made me feel small and have made me feel erased. And I’ve found ... a really powerful and humiliating tool for making those people f— off. I would like you to scream so loud that Gov. Bill Lee can hear you.”

Following Baker’s lead, the audience began to chant “F— Bill Lee!” as the musicians of Boygenius defiantly raised their middle fingers in the air.

‘It’s just a bottomless well of love and emotion,’ says Phoebe Bridgers of being in a band with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus.

April 3, 2023

At one point during the show, Lucy Dacus introduced herself and her bandmates by their drag names: Lucille Balls (Dacus), Shanita Tums (Baker) and Queef Urban (Phoebe Bridgers). Dacus wore a sparkly black dress and red platform boots; Baker donned a silky purple suit and Elvis-esque wig; and Bridgers sported a spiderweb bodysuit and voluminous gray hair.

Julien Baker of Boygenius performs on stage dressed in a purple suit
Julien Baker of Boygenius performs in drag as Shanita Tums at a concert in Nashville on Sunday.
(Bobby Kelly)

Boygenius traveled to Nashville over the weekend as part of its ongoing tour, which kicked off earlier this month in San Diego, Los Angeles and Stanford. In April, the three singer-songwriters — known for songs such as “Not Strong Enough” and “Cool About It” — played the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio.


Boygenius is not the first musical act to speak out against Tennessee’s anti-drag legislation, which aimed to prohibit “adult cabaret” artists (widely interpreted as code for drag performers) from performing in public and/or in the presence of children. The law was met with outrage from opponents who deemed it discriminatory and oppressive to the LGBTQ+ community.

A federal judge says Tennessee’s first-in-the-nation law designed to place strict limits on drag shows is unconstitutional.

June 3, 2023

In April, Lizzo protested the law by inviting more than a dozen drag queens — including Aquaria, Kandy Muse, Asia O’Hara and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo — to join her onstage in Knoxville.

“Why would I not create a safe space in Tennessee where we can celebrate Pride entertainers and celebrate our differences and celebrate fat Black women?” Lizzo said during the show.

“What people are doing in Tennessee is giving hope, so thank you so much for standing up for your rights, protecting each other and holding the people accountable who should be protecting us.”

Lucy Dacus of Boygenius sits on stage during a performance, holding a cup of tea
Lucy Dacus of Boygenius performs in drag as Lucille Balls at a concert in Nashville on Sunday.
(Bobby Kelly)