N.C. musicians host fundraising concert to battle HB2

TEAM EFFORT: North Carolina is home to “a really resilient community of artists and creatives, people who know how to make things happen," says pop artist Brett Harris, top left. “We don't go away quietly." Harris performs at a Stand Against HB2 benefit concert at The Orange Peel with other North Carolina-based musicians including, clockwise from top right, locals Gary Jules, Fireside Collective and Stephanie Morgan. Photos, clockwise from top left, by Audrey Hermon Kopp, courtesy of Down Up Down Music Inc., courtesy of Fireside Collective and courtesy of Stephanie Morgan

Taking full advantage of its first majority in North Carolina government in decades, the state Republican Party has pushed through a conservative legislative agenda. Among the most high-profile — and contentious — of the initiatives has been the passage of House Bill 2, the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, widely known as HB2. Opposition to the bill has been widespread, and across the state a coalition of musicians has banded together to host a series of “Stand Against HB2” benefit concerts, including one at The Orange Peel on Sunday, Aug. 28.

That show will be a marathon event, running from 3 p.m. until midnight, and will feature more than 15 North Carolina-based performers, including local artists Gary Jules, Fireside Collective and — in her first post-stephaniesid show — vocalist Stephanie Morgan.

“I’m not much of a protester,” Morgan admits. “I like to help build momentum for something I like [instead of working] against something that has a lot of momentum moving in the opposite direction.” Being involved in the Stand Against HB2 concerts, she says, allows her to “be part of the build.”

North Carolina is home to “a really resilient community of artists and creatives, people who know how to make things happen,” says pop artist Brett Harris, from Durham, who will play the Asheville concert and is also a veteran of two other Stand Against HB2 shows. “We’ve seen it time and again with Moral Monday protests and the North Carolina Music Love Army: We don’t go away quietly.”

Harris continues, “As a person of faith, I’m deeply offended by what I see going on.” He considers HB2 “completely antithetical to the gospel that I read and try to live by.” In the face of what he characterizes as a “breeding ground for hate,” he believes, “the only thing we can do is to speak love.”

While there are many components to the controversial law, the two provisions within it generating the most controversy are one that strips local governments of the authority to make and enact their own anti-discrimination laws, and another that requires all persons to use only those public restrooms that correspond with their gender as designated at birth. To address that issue, there are two transgender speakers on the bill, Candis Cox and Lara Americo, says organizer Mike Allen. Plus, “Someone’s Sister is an LGBTQ band, as is shirlette ammons.”

Even among professional musicians opposed to HB2, there has been a variety of responses. Bruce Springsteen led the way for a boycott of North Carolina. In a statement announcing cancellation of a Greensboro date, he wrote, “To my mind, [HB2 is] 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. … 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.”

Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile took a different approach. Characterizing the law as “thinly veiled legislation … that permits the discrimination of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters in N.C.,” she said that “to cancel my shows in N.C. would further oppress my fans who are hurt by this legislation.” Carlile will perform at The Meadow (at Highland Brewing Co.) on Saturday, Sept. 10.

Many musicians based in North Carolina would also like to see HB2 repealed but often depend upon gigs in their home state for their livelihood — hence this series of concerts aimed at changing the legislation. The first Stand Against HB2 show took place at the Haw River Ballroom near Chapel Hill and raised a little over $20,000, says Allen.

“You don’t have to be a musician to help,” he points out. Allen volunteered to steward the concert series, designating funds raised to benefit Equality NC, a statewide organization that raises awareness about issues affecting the LBGTQ community. “I’m not a musician. I’m just a guy. And I want my state back,” Allen says.

The adverse effects of the bill extend well beyond the LGBTQ community, says Matt Hirschy, Equality NC’s director of advancement. He calls HB2 “a bill that has cost our state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue, whether that be tax revenue, spending or earned revenue from events.” Hirschy describes Equality NC’s mission to “advocate, elect and educate North Carolinians to a pro-equality mindset. Show proceeds go directly to those efforts as we move into [elections in] November.”

Hirschy appreciates the varying principled stands musicians are taking on the hot-button topic of HB2. “At the end of the day, the artists who come from out of state to perform here, or choose to boycott the state, are doing so because they feel strongly about the issue,” he says. “It’s a very serious decision for folks like Bruce Springsteen to make a call and cancel their show. But I also support artists who want to come here and play here and invest in groups that are working to make North Carolina a better place.”

WHAT: Stand Against HB2: North Carolina Musicians United for Equality NC
WHERE: The Orange Peel, 101 Biltmore Ave., theorangepeel.net
WHEN: Sunday, Aug. 28, 3 p.m.-midnight. $15 advance/$20 day of show


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About Bill Kopp
Author, music journalist, historian, collector, and musician. His first book, "Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon," published by Rowman & Littlefield, is available now. Follow me @the_musoscribe

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26 thoughts on “N.C. musicians host fundraising concert to battle HB2

  1. boatrocker

    Great idea- in theory.
    Sadly, the reality is:

    Funding an organization that raises awareness? A noble idea.
    Who craves awareness in a nation that gets McNews from social media on their phone tailored to their delicate likes and preferences?…….

    That’s like trying to tell the jerk uncle at the Thanksgiving dinner table that there are sources other than FOX for information.
    Good luck with that.

    Yes- local musicians (almost humans according to the tourism industry and the city) are asked to donate talent for a cause.
    Yet again.

    Organizers- take the $ raised for the Orange Peel show (once the OP takes their ahem rightful cut) and invest in registering NC citizens to vote in order to get the Free Market Sharia Law ™ morons out of office who passed the laws in the first place.
    Especially now that certain voting laws have been found to be contrary to the Constitution, according to the winning side post Civil War.

    Though yet another local feel good fundraiser with empowered guest speakers and live music makes us all feel
    NaaamasteNiiiice (also tm) for hearing their impassioned speeches that otherwise do not carry weight for real change, please remember-

    Beer and food always will always generate higher views on local rags, but if you love living here-
    Do the right thing.

    Organizers- don’t worry, the attendees won’t remember a message for anything other than sucking down a few beers and hearing safe local folk music and a few regional/national acts, but use the wad of cash at the end of the night righteously-

    unless you want to have to do it again.

    • Juan Holladay

      Woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Some good might come if this yet, despite your cynical summarization. We are bringing the love.

  2. “one that strips local governments of the authority to make and enact their own anti-discrimination laws”

    “and another that requires all persons to use only those public restrooms that correspond with their gender as designated at birth.”

    Both false.

    1. Local government NEVER had the delegated authority from the state to set anti-discrimination policy for their jurisdictions (which includes private businesses). HB2 does not prohibit private businesses from establishing their own anti-discrimination policies. The illegal Charlotte ordinance would have forced private businesses to eliminate sex segregated facilities. Charlotte was warned. They passed it anyway. HB2 fixed that.

    2. HB2 requires all persons to use only those public accomodations (bathrooms, showers, locker rooms) that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. Sex can be changed and so can birth certificates.

    3. HB2 clarifies the state’s uniform statewide anti-discrimation policy, prohibits cities from violating the rights of private businesses, and allows local governments and businesses to set policy for the own employees.

    4. HB2 clarifies that North Carolina has the same non-discrimination as the federal government:

    5. HB2 does not preclude establishing further statewide non-discrimination protections in the future.

    6. Preening rock bands are grandstanding over something they know nothing about. Zero.

    • bsummers

      It’s so unfair that they don’t listen to you when you’re obviously so right all the time.

        • “And we’ll go over this dozens of times and it won’t matter. ”

          1. Did I call it or did I call it?

          “your fanciful interpretation of the former Charlotte ordinance is ridiculous.”

          2. All you would have to do to disabuse yourself of that notion is to view the link that has been provided to you probably a dozen times. But I fear it would destroy you so better that you stay uninformed. I can live with that. Indeed, I have.

          “How do you know what they know about HB2?”

          3. Because they are protesting it in a grand way that is a disservice to their illusory cause, whatever that is. I’ll bet not one of them have read House Bill 2. It’s nothing more than progressive virtue-signalling. They are ignorant of the issue and simply parrot what their boyfriends have told them.

          4. You failed in your explanation of why you are here. You trot out the same misrepresentations you did months ago and have no interest in honest investigation.

          • Peter Robbins

            All you need to do to disabuse yourself is to learn the rule against construing a statute or other legal provision to produce an absurd result or a result contrary to the intent of the drafters. But before even getting to that point, you would have to show that Charlotte intended to enforce the ordinance as you interpret it. You can’t, so hush. You are just wasting everyone’s time with your stubbornness.

          • “you would have to show that Charlotte intended to enforce the ordinance as you interpret it.”

            Laws are passed to be enforced. That’s the default assumption. If you’re not going to enforce a law, don’t pass it. If it is on the books, as Charlotte’s ordinance was intended to be, there’s always the risk that it will be enforced, as it should be.

            You cannot prove that lawmakers passed a law never intending to enforce it. That’s absurd. That must be some kind of progressive calculation.

            Odd that you would hang your hat on an obvious absurdity. But I did call it.”

            “learn the rule against construing a statute or other legal provision to produce an absurd result”

            I have contrued the law to mean exactly what it was written to mean and to have precisely the ill effects it would have.

            See, folks, what I have to put up with?

          • Peter Robbins

            I never said that Charlotte didn’t intend to enforce the ordinance. I said Charlotte didn’t intend to enforce the ordinance the way you interpret it. And you don’t know how to interpret it.

          • I do know how to interpret the ordinance: according to the letter. You should read it. I gave it to you some months ago and again in this thread.

          • Peter Robbins

            No. You do not. No provision of law will be read to produce an absurd result that is contrary to the manifest intent of the drafters, letter or no. (And that’s just for openers. You’re not reading the ordinance according to the letter, either, but there’s no need to even go into that.) I warned you earlier to learn the canons of construction and you didn’t want to. Now you can wallow in your mud of ignorance, happily splashing around as if you had the slightest notion what you were talking about. But do read the Charlotte government’s explanation of the ordinance. That defines how Charlotte intended to enforce it. It doesn’t matter whether you think Charlotte was right or wrong. It doesn’t matter what you think at all. Or what I think, for that matter. Charlotte’s official interpretation is the only thing businesses in the city ever had to worry about with respect to enforcement.

          • “Charlotte’s official interpretation is the only thing businesses in the city ever had to worry about with respect to enforcement.”

            It matters not what the city’s interpretation of their own law was. They passed it. The letter of the law had far-reaching consequences, They were warned of the ramifications and told not to pass it. They did it any way (http://bit.ly/23hmgDp). And HB2 solved that niggling little problem and restored the ‘status quo’. Good. Interpretations be damned, HB2 is good law. Only, I wish more rock bands and empty-headed progressives understood that. If not, who cares?

          • Peter Robbins

            I see your point now. An interpretation that no one took seriously (because it was loony), and that would never be accepted by anyone (because it produced an absurd result), and that was rejected point-blank by the municipality that would enforce the ordinance (because its lawyers were smarter than you are) demanded immediate and incompetently drafted legislation without regard for the economic consequences (because who likes basketball, anyway?). Good law? You’re too modest. That’s just great!

      • Peter Robbins

        1. As has been stated before on this website, the city of Charlotte has cited its police and business-regulation powers as authority for the local ordinance that HB2 invalidated. Some disagree with that view. So as not to take sides in a legal dispute, the Xpress story could be rewritten to say that the General Assembly expressly prohibited local non-discrimination ordinances of the kind that Charlotte passed, rather than saying that the Legislature stripped local governments of that authority. But that’s hardly the focus of the piece.

        2. The story should have said that HB2 requires people to use public restrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates (regardless of their actual gender identity), rather than saying that it requires people to use facilities that correspond to the sex of their birth. Most states allow a birth certificate to be amended after a sex-change operation, but, according to the Lambda organization, four do not. If this information is correct, post-operation transsexuals born in those four states must, under HB2, use facilities that do not correspond to their gender. (You think the Legislature might have found stuff like that out if it had held hearings?)

        3. The Charlotte city government has stated, in an official interpretation, that the ordinance it passed did not prohibit sex-segregated restrooms and would not have been enforced in that manner. In any event, this oft-imagined boogeyman has nothing to do with the Xpress story and discussion of ethereal spirits would veer the thread (oh, the horror, the horror!) off topic.

        4. Sigh. A troll’s work is never done.

        • bsummers

          This is all fascinating, but why are you awake at 4:40 AM? … Oh damn. Why am I awake at 4:40 AM?

          • The Real World

            Hhmm, go figure, I was up to. We oughta swap emails…………

          • boatrocker

            Hey, just wake me up on Monday, Aug 29, 2016 AD to tell me if ‘bringing the love’ at an Orange Peel show and ‘awareness’ has overturned ‘Murican Sharia Law Jim Crow 2.0. It’s not just about bathrooms, it is also about certain ‘riders’, is it not? Like boiling a frog.

            For having not a dog in the race, I do know that like the “They Came For Me” poem we all had to read in highs school, first it is bathrooms, then it is the books you read, and then I’ll see everyone here with a conscience up against the wall.

            Until then,

          • Peter Robbins

            Well, at the very least, the artists are giving you an opportunity to think of more effective kinds of action and tell us about them. So chill. I mean, what happened to you, man? You used to be about the music.

        • “The story should have said that HB2 requires people to use public restrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates ”

          1. That’s what I said. Tell me why you’re here?

          “the ordinance it passed did not prohibit sex-segregated restrooms”

          2. And yet you’re wrong. That’s exactly the effect Charlotte ordinance would have had:

          3. And well go over this dozens of times and it won’t matter. Sigh.


          • Peter Robbins

            1. Why am I here? To suggest very minor tweaks in wording that would obviate your “concerns” about what is actually a fine article about how local artists are dealing with the protest of HB2. And to point out a reason why the law’s clumsy reference to birth certificates actually forces some people into the restroom that proponents of HB2 themselves think is the wrong one.

            2. I have despaired of ever convincing you that your fanciful interpretation of the former Charlotte ordinance is ridiculous. You are entitled to your illusions and your videos. But I had hoped to convince you to at least face the facts — the cold, hard undeniable facts — that (a) the people who passed the ordinance did not interpret it your way; (b) the people who were going to enforce the ordinance did not interpret it your way; and (c) the ordinance would never have been enforced against any businesses in the way that you fear. The Legislature, therefore, called itself into emergency session to address a complete non-problem – and responded in a way that has, among other things, caused serious harm to the image and economic well-being of the state. Local artists are to be congratulated for opposing this terrible law. (And, by the way, your snide disparagement of their knowledge is strange. How do you know what they know about HB2? The story is about how they are protesting the law, not what they know about it.)

  3. boatrocker

    Yes, as a matter of fact I do consider myself cynical but at no time did imply that the event should not happen.
    Cynical because legislators only move to action when money is involved and their feet are held to the ideological fire.
    New Agey buzz words like awareness of an issue sound so nice, and I’m sure all will be entertained at the event and hey, you might even raise some money-

    but at the end of the day let’s see if ‘bringing the love’ will overturn a law.
    See my above suggestions for how to spend some of the hard earned cash to overturn a law.

    If asked to choose between bringing the love or justice in this land, it’s gonna be justice first for me.

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