Although Brett Dennen has taken a stand against House Bill 2, he will still take the stage at the Brooklyn Art Center next week as planned.
Rather than join the wave of boycotts by big-name acts like Bruce Springsteen, Ani DiFranco and Pearl Jam, Dennen released a statement that he would not cancel two upcoming shows in North Carolina, including his Tuesday night appearance in downtown Wilmington presented by 98.3 FM The Penguin. The indie folk rocker also kept his gig Thursday at the Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival in Pittsboro.
Dennen said he is “against bigotry and discrimination,” calling the controversial HB2 “unconstitutional and shameful,” and he praised those musicians who have opted to back out of North Carolina since the measure took effect April 1.
“I think it’s righteous that Mr. Springsteen and Ms. DiFranco and many others have cancelled their shows in protest. They are noble and their fans deserve applause,” Dennen said. “For in order to reverse this bigotry, the economy of NC will have to suffer until the backward representatives, businesses and governor involved will buckle under the pressure and come to the light. These are superstar musicians and superstar fans who are holding out in solidarity.”
Penned in response to non-discrimination actions adopted by Charlotte leaders, HB2 requires transgender people to use bathrooms aligned with the gender on their birth certificate, rather than the one with which they currently identify.
State legislators behind the law – overwhelmingly Republican – say the law aims to address issues of safety and practicality surrounding the use of public bathrooms and locker rooms, but opponents see the restriction as a sign of intolerance of the LGBT community. They also take issue with HB2’s other limitations: local municipalities’ authority to raise minimum wage and employees’ ability to file workplace discrimination claims at the state level.
Outcry from those in the music industry mirrors formal angst expressed national industries like PayPal, which recently opted out of a planned expansion in Charlotte, as well as local business leaders, such as tekMountain.
Wilmington City Council, too, has spoken out, passing a resolution last month in support of a repeal. Legislation calling for a swift end to the law has been introduced in both houses of the General Assembly during the current session.
Rather than simply send a message by not showing up to North Carolina shows, Dennen said there is more than one way to send a message.
“No doubt, playing in North Carolina will be a powerful experience,” he said. “I believe that I will be surrounded by like-minded people, full of love, who understand that the community and love we build together is change in the making. I crave being around and inspired by people who want to make the world better…There are multiple ways to stand up against discrimination, not just protest,” he noted.
Keeping his appearance at Shakori Hills, Dennen said, was about helping a cause close to his art. The organization provides music and art outreach while teaching environmental awareness. The annual festival is a major fundraiser for the non-profit.
While Wilmington is a stop on his regular tour, Dennen has extended an invitation to a local transgender advocacy group to come to the show, at which Dennen wants to donate a portion of merchandise sales to that group.
Not being from the area, Dennen is soliciting feedback from Wilmingtonians that would help him connect to such an organization. Those interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions.
Tickets are still available to the show, which starts at 6:30 p.m. May 10 with opening act Firebird. Doors open at 6 p.m. General admission seats are $20 ($40 for balcony seats) and can be purchased here.
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at email@example.com.