Pearl Jam joins North Carolina concert boycott: Who else is protesting anti-gay law?
"We thought we could take the money and give it to them, and still play the show, but the reality is, there's nothing like the immense power of boycotting."
So said Eddie Vedder on stage in Virginia on Monday, the day Pearl Jam announced it would be canceling its Thursday show in Raleigh, N.C., in response to the latter state's so-called bathroom law, which was passed in a special one-day legislative session on March 23 and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory that same evening.
For the record:
8:55 p.m.: An earlier version of this story misspelled Gov. Pat McCrory's last name as McRory.
Musicians' boycotts of North Carolina over HB2 -- a law that, in addition to restricting the civil rights of LGBT people in areas including housing, healthcare and employment, requires trans people to use the restroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate -- are among the reactions being heard the loudest nationwide.
Here are the biggest musical players in the controversy so far, plus a few who've explained why they aren't staying away, and others who are on the North Carolina concert calendar in coming months but haven't yet spoken up.
"It was a hard process," Vedder told the Hampton, Va., crowd Monday night, "because we thought we could still play, and make things right ... we could fortify all the people on the ground that are working to repeal this despicable law. We thought we could take the money and give it to them, and still play the show, but the reality is, there's nothing like the immense power of boycotting and pulling a string. And it's a shame ... but it could be the way that ultimately is going to affect change. So ultimately, we just couldn't find it in ourselves, in good conscience, to cross a picket line."
Vedder then apologized to the North Carolina fans and, presumably because they'll feel the economic sting, to "the locals, who probably believe in the same things we do."
"They have a reason to be pissed," he said. "We're pissed off too, but we've got to be pissed off at the right people and get them to change their minds, because they made a mistake. A big mistake."
We want America to be a place where no one can be turned away from a business because of who they love or fired from their job for who they are.
In its statement, the band called HB2 "a despicable piece of legislation that encourages discrimination against an entire group of American citizens. The practical implications are expansive and its negative impact upon basic human rights is profound."
Pearl Jam said it would be donating money to groups working to overturn the law and added, "In the meantime we will be watching with hope and waiting in line for a time when we can return."
Springsteen, with his devoted fans and reputation for delivering fantastic live performances, is the big dog in this hunt. So when he said April 8 he was bailing on his sold-out Greensboro show two nights later, attention was paid.
"North Carolina has just passed HB2, which ... dictates which bathrooms transgender people are permitted to use. Just as important, the law also attacks the rights of LGBT citizens to sue when their human rights are violated in the workplace. No other group of North Carolinians faces such a burden," he wrote on his website. "To my mind, it's an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress."
He continued: "Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry -- which is happening as I write -- is one of them. It is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards."
Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry -- which is happening as I write -- is one of them.
Guitarist Steven Van Zandt was on board with the Boss.
"We just felt the issue was just too important," Van Zandt told Rolling Stone. "This really vile and evil discrimination is starting to spread state to state and we thought, 'We better take a stand right now and catch it early.'"
He continued: "It's unfortunately the only way people understand. You have to hurt them economically in order to have them do the right thing morally, unfortunately."
Chad Griffin, president of the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement, "Bruce Springsteen is a hero and an icon because he gives voice, both through his music and his advocacy, to those who struggle against injustice and equality. It means so much that he has spoken out against this hateful bill on behalf of thousands of citizens whose rights and fundamental dignity are being trampled by the leadership of North Carolina."
The British artist actually canceled an April 14 show not in North Carolina but in Mississippi in protest of that state's newly passed anti-gay law, which backers say protects religious freedom. (Ellen DeGeneres also spoke out against that law, calling it "definition of discrimination.")
"I cannot in good conscience perform in a State where certain people are being denied their civil rights due to their sexual orientation ... ," Adams said April 10 on Facebook. "Using my voice I stand in solidarity with all my LGBT friends to repeal this extremely discriminatory bill. Hopefully Mississippi will right itself and I can come back and perform for all of my many fans."
One small catch here: The "Cuts Like a Knife" singer's boycott has been called out by some as hypocritical because back in 2010 he played concerts in nations that are hardly gay-friendly, including Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Boston founder Tom Scholz announced Monday that the band was axing shows planned for May 4-6 in Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh, noting in a statement that it was likely that some fans or their loved ones would be affected by "this ugly expression of intolerance" on a daily basis.
Hopefully the sacrifices we are all making here will inspire people to do the right thing in the future.
Tom Scholz of the band Boston
"My sincere apologies to our fans who have already made arrangements to attend these shows. The removal of the shows from our schedule is a major disappointment. It has always been my wish to inspire people with Boston's music. Hopefully the sacrifices we are all making here will inspire people to do the right thing in the future. We look forward to the day that the state government of North Carolina will come to its senses and treat ALL individuals with equal freedom in their pursuit of happiness here in the United States."
On April 13, the former Beatle and his All-Starr Band pulled out of a June 18 concert in Cary, N.C. "I'm sorry to disappoint my fans in the area, but we need to take a stand against this hatred," Starr said in a statement. "Spread peace and love. ... How sad that they feel that this group of people cannot be defended."
Lauper will play in Raleigh on June 4, but she said April 13 that the concert would go on and be aimed at raising awareness and funds for a group working to get HB2 overturned.
"Sadly, once again, the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have been trampled on ...," the "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" singer posted on Facebook. "Me and my team at the True Colors Fund have been closely monitoring the situation in North Carolina and support the efforts of the Human Rights Campaign, Equality North Carolina, and others to repeal HB2 in the upcoming legislative session. The pressure to repeal HB2 is building and it is beautiful."
Lauper said she was "hopeful" that the law would be nixed. "In that vein, the best way I know how to make a difference is what I have strived to do my whole life and that is show up for my family, friends, and fans in the LGBT community. So, for that reason I think the best way I can do my part is to turn my show in Raleigh on June 4th into an entire day to build public support to repeal HB2. I will be donating all of the profits from the show to Equality NC's efforts to repeal HB2 and I am proud of my manager and agent for joining me in this effort by donating their commissions from the show to this vital effort."
Jimmy Buffett with Huey Lewis and the News
"As a traveling musician for 40 years, I played many shows years ago, in many states where you could go to prison for 20 years for smoking a joint. It was a stupid law based on stupid assumptions," Buffett said in an April 9 message on his Margaritaville website. "Time has fortunately reversed a lot of that way of thinking. But now another stupid law, based on stupid assumptions, has sprung up like kudzu in North Carolina, where we are scheduled to play shows ... ."
The "Boat Drinks" singer will play those gigs, he said, but the future of his performances in the state depends on whether HB2 is repealed.
"North Carolina was there for me as a performer in the early days and I have always felt a loyalty to fans there that goes deep. Rightly so, a lot of people are reacting to the stupid law. I happen to believe that the majority of our fans in North Carolina feel the way I do about that law. I am lucky enough to have found a job in the business of fun. These shows were booked and sold out long before the governor signed that stupid law. I am not going to let stupidity or bigotry trump fun for my loyal fans this year."
Allman and his band played in North Carolina on April 13, but explained the decision in a Facebook post the day before the show.
"For over 45 years, I've been fortunate to play music all around this country and the world. I've been honored to know and be friends with many different people from all walks of life. Although we, as a nation, have made progress in many areas, it's sad and infuriating that some, in 2016, are still working so hard to take the rights away from our brothers and sisters," he wrote.
"I know that North Carolina is a state full of good folks and loyal fans, many of whom are angry about and feel misrepresented by this action. My band and I will continue to play our show as scheduled ... and hope that our music unites people in this challenging time. We stand in solidarity with the LGBT community urging Gov. McCrory to listen to the people and reverse this wrong."
Yet to weigh in
Some of the artists scheduled to play at various North Carolina venues in the coming months are:
Tori Kelly, April 21, Charlotte; Wynton Marsalis, April 21, Charlotte; Alabama Shakes, April 22, Charlotte; Skylar Grey, April 23, Charlotte; Ms. Lauryn Hill with Gary Clark Jr., April 26, Greensboro; Beyonce, May 3, Raleigh; Chris Isaak, May 3, Raleigh; Anthony Hamilton and Fantasia, May 5, Greensboro; Def Leppard with REO Speedwagon and Tesla, May 13, Greensboro (second rescheduling of shows postponed due to health issues); Styx with Kansas and Don Felder, May 18, Cary; Willie Nelson, May 22, Cary; Dolly Parton, June 3, Greensboro; R. Kelly, June 10, Greensboro; "Weird Al" Yankovic, June 18, Greensboro; New Edition with Babyface, June 24, Greensboro; Justin Bieber, July 6, Greensboro; and Josh Groban, July 19, Greensboro.
Follow Christie D'Zurilla on Twitter @theCDZ.
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