Chances are, if you read blogs or music sites like this on the regular, then you’ve already witnessed the fall of queer pop-punk duo PWR BTTM that played out last month. You may have also bought a ticket to their Masquerade gig on June 12, long before the first report of Ben Hopkins’ sexual misconduct leaked on Facebook. Once Jezebel confirmed those allegations, everyone wiped the band from their plate — including all the support bands that had signed on for their upcoming album tour. Hence, your refunded ticket — and, for a few days, a vacant spot on the Masquerade’s calendar.
Now, however, Southern Fried Queer Pride has arranged for a “replacement” show, so that the safe queer space that PWR BTTM would’ve (theoretically) provided won’t just fade away. The lineup will be just locals, all connected to the LGBTQ community — and, as extra comeuppance, all the proceeds from the show will go toward the Anti-Violence Project (AVP) and the Rape, Assault, & Incest National Network (RAINN).
Assembled by SFQP co-founder and performance artist TAYLOR ALXNDR, the show will feature brisk sets from an eclectic range of acts, from the gothic techno of AGYN; to hip-hop from NEWMONEY, Dandy Warhol, and Jamee C.; to the emotive punk of Bitter; to the cabaret rock of Sarah and the Safe Word. The bill came together swiftly, just a week after the PWR BTTM scandal surfaced — perhaps because ALXNDR boasts a track record of organizing “parties with a purpose.”
“Taylor has always been someone I admire for their dedication to creating spaces and opportunities for people under the LGBTQ+ banner,” says Jay Douglas, aka NEWMONEY. “When they mentioned this idea, I knew immediately I would love to be part of it.”
For others, like Jamee Cornelia, who performs as Jamee C., the benefit offers a rare platform for change in the community. “I feel like a lot of inner city shows are empty when it comes to impact and meaning,” Cornelia says. And indeed, this gig isn’t just about the music. Prior to the first act, local non-profit Raksha, Inc. will host a roundtable discussion on the nature of consent, particularly in public spaces — which is fitting, given that Hopkins’ ignorance of that led to his downfall. “I felt like a lot of people don’t have a solid concept of what [consent] is,” ALXNDR says.
Granted, Hopkins’ transgressions still sting. ALXNDR bought their ticket to see PWR BTTM two days before the news leaked. “This would’ve been my third time seeing them live,” they reveal over email, “and I remember how folks would call out of work and travel from outside of the city to see them, and how much queer spaces matter to folks, especially younger crowds.” Elena de Soto, national promoter at the Masquerade, adds bitterly, “I’m stuck with this PWR BTTM tattoo that I once loved and now despise.” And Cornelia, who harbored a “bitter sweetness” for the duo (after all, as she points out, queer androgynous women have always struggled to stand out over their male counterparts), admits that she loved watching such an idiosyncratic outfit receive “dope mainstream attention.”
Alas, no matter how devoted these fans may have been, everyone I spoke to unanimously agrees that PWR BTTM’s swift decline was absolutely necessary. “The queer community holds our folks to a higher regard because our community is tight-knit and vulnerable,” ALXNDR contends. “I’m proud of the way that PWR BTTM was held accountable, especially by their fans.”
Likewise, in a statement, Sarah and the Safe Word also expressed pride in how the band was held to task. “We wish that people within the music industry as a whole would respond with the same level of disgust and resolve that the queer community did with PWR BTTM.”
Fortunately, ALXNDR hasn’t been the only one to fill the gap left by PWR BTTM with their own forms of advocacy. In Orlando, promoters Norsekorea and Glory Days have also arranged a replacement gig on June 10 to raise money for RAINN at the Backbooth. In Durham, the Pinhook will host a free screening of PRIDE, a documentary about the unlikely alliance between LGBTQ activists and a union of Welsh coal miners.
As Sasha Geffen wrote for Pitchfork, the toxic hypocrisy of PWR BTTM shouldn’t discourage their fans from learning to embrace and flaunt their own queer selves. Substitute shows like these demonstrate how folks can take back the self-confidence that their former idols once embodied, with the same tools of any activist endeavor: assembly and action.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Elena de Soto was a member of Sarah and the Safe Word, which she is not. Additionally, the band’s statement was incorrectly attributed to de Soto.
A Benefit for RAINN and AVP will take place on Mon., June 12 at the Masquerade (Hell). Performing will be Sarah and the Safe Word, Bitter, Jamee C., Dandy Warhol, TAYLOR ALXNDR, AGYN, and NEWMONEY. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $10. All ages.
Facebook: Event page