IF NOT US, THEN WHO? Jon Lindsay and dozens of other musicians take the stage against HB2

Since House Bill 2 passed last March, corporations have abandoned plans to move to NC, the NBA All-Star Game pulled out of Charlotte, and the state has lost a lot of money from the music industry. Numerous entertainers like Bruce Springsteen, Ani Difranco, Maroon 5, Pearl Jam, and Ringo Starr are but a few who used their popularity as an opportunity to raise awareness against the attack on citizen’s rights—more specifically LGBTQIA rights. They canceled their tour stops in NC and garnered criticism from disappointed fans, as well as respect from those who share their views.

TAKE A STAND: Wilmington’s BAC will host Stand Against HB2 concert series, featuring dozens of NC musicians like Jon Lindsay (above). Photo by Johnny Ching.
TAKE A STAND: Wilmington’s BAC will host Stand Against HB2 concert series, featuring dozens of NC musicians like Jon Lindsay (above). Photo by Johnny Ching.

As well NC has been sued by the Justice Department for passing the discriminatory law, and in retaliation NC filed a counter suit, which will cost the state millions. UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute reported, after all is said and done, HB2 could cost NC an estimated $5 billion in monies spent and lost.

Still, other entertainers have decided the show must go on, and some have used their concerts as platforms to raise awareness and funds for LGTBQIA causes. Many like Louis C.K. and David Sedaris donated money they would have made for their speaking engagements to causes like Equality NC. It’s a tough choice that Raleigh-based singer-songwriter Jon Lindsay says artists have to make in order to be most effective.

“Judging by the coverage [of Springsteen’s] chosen method to protest HB2 [and cancel his Greensboro show last spring] . . . I feel it certainly was effective,” Lindsay tells. “I believe, and have seen in my own personal experience, that everyone short of being an iconic global superstar generally tends to be more effective when they show up, don’t cancel shows and events, and organize, agitate and fight from within the belly of the beast. It just seems to work better and seems less pretentious for everybody who is not the Boss.”

Often referred to as the “Bathroom Bill” statewide and nationally, Lindsay is frustrated to hear it being oversimplified. “[It’s] a law that is also about keeping the minimum wage down, denying rights to other groups such as veterans, and a slew of terribleness,” he explains. “[It all] gets disrespected and lost in the mix when that kind of sophomoric language is used to describe the bill.”

Lindsay is one of more than two dozen bands and musicians taking action onstage at Stand Against HB2, an all-day music event to take place at the Brooklyn Arts Center on Sunday, July 31. All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Equality NC and QORDS (Queer Oriented Radical Days of Summer) Camp. Local favorites joining Lindsay include Folkstar, The Midatlantic and Onward, Soldiers. Dillon Fence, Greg Humphreys Electric Trio, Brett Harris, Johnny Folsom 4, and Sarah Shook & the Disarmers also round out an expansive bill.

Social justice advocate and event organizer Mike Allen first began the series of concerts after he got a call from a few musician friends in the Triangle area just days after HB2 became law. “They wanted to make a statement opposing the law and asked me to help organize an event,” Allen remembers. “That was the genesis of the first show. I reached out to Heather Lagarde at the Haw River Ballroom and she donated that venue to us.”

Allen had 24 artists booked in four days (he even had to turn away some because the lineup was so full). In six days, the show was sold out. “We raised more than $20,000 in one day from ticket sales, merchandise sales and donations to Equality NC,” he praises.

With such an overwhelmingly positive response, Allen was able to work more enthusiastic musicians into a second event in Winston-Salem. Here they raised more than $3,000. “I did not even think about doing it again until two days after Haw River when someone said, ‘You should take this on the road around the state,’” Allen admits. “I laughed, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. So I just started doing it.”

In addition to Haw River, Winston-Salem and Wilmington, Stand Against HB2 concerts are scheduled for Asheville (Aug. 28), Charlotte (Sept. 24) and Carrboro (Oct. 8), which will end the series. “We also may do a New York City show,” Allen divulges. “It’s in the planning stages now.”

Jon Lindsay has been with Stand Against HB2 from the start. “I’m proud to say my band and I have made a commitment to play every single show,” he says. “I can’t seem to stay away from a good fight.”

Lindsay always has been politically opinionated. However, he didn’t formally start organizing and engaging on an activist level until 2013, when he co-founded the NC Music Love Army cooperative with fellow songwriter Caitlin Cary. The group debuted a full-length LP in the same year and have released 11 songs since, including “When You Were A Young Man,” in direct response to HB2 this year. Written and produced by Lindsay, it features Pierce Freelon, JSWISS, Topiq the Smooth Prophet, Caitlin Cary, Chessa Rich, Reese McHenry, Apple Juice Kid, and Whit Wright of American Aquarium.

“In addition to all of these HB2 benefits I’m playing with my band, and NCMLA just threw our own sold-out benefit at Kings in Raleigh,” Lindsay continues. “It was an anti-HB2 show with proceeds [going] to Equality NC, Now or Never NC, and LGBT Center of Raleigh.”

This isn’t Lindsay’s first stab at unpopular NC laws—nor at McCrory himself. When McCrory and the GOP-led assembly passed new voter ID legislation, Lindsay wrote and produced the single “Dear Mr. McCrory” (2014). It features guests American Aquarium and Caitlin Cary and chalks up the law to voter suppression, while comparing the governor to known segregationist George Wallace. Through all the various fanbases, with more projects in the works, Lindsay hopes continues to fight hard for progressive values, as well as moral, ethical and sane governance in NC.

“HB2 is just yet another shameful, giant shit sandwich being crammed down the throats of NC’s citizenry by a handful of well-funded, hateful bigots,” he says. “Honestly, I’ve lost count somewhere along the line when we hit the tipping point, and they sent NC careening straight off a cliff from its once noble position as the inclusive, forward-thinking jewel of the lovely South.”

Folks at ILM’s Stand Against HB2 can expect Lindsay to dig deep into his catalog of music, as well as from his new album, “Cities & Schools” (June 2016). His latest release is a take on “a big rock record,” according to the musician.

“That means lots of things to lots of folks,” he explains. “The first two records wanted to be sprawling pop/rock records that were allowed to indulge any impulse that seemed honest. I think they work well that way. For ‘Cities,’ I knew in order to keep things feeling fresh for me, to grow and to continue to explore, I actually needed to work within this sort of form.”

Lindsay wanted the record to be under 40 minutes and relentlessly anthemic—something that grabbed listeners and didn’t let go. “I wanted it to be non-apologetically well-crafted in the style of classic records that move with tremendous intention,” he adds, “but I knew I’d have to make sure it still felt alive, honest and exciting.”

Lindsay tells stories that morph in and out of autobiography—with semi-unreliable narrators. “Cities” also helped him work through some baggage of his own present and past he’s been afraid to face for years. Songs like “All Them Houses” and “Little Queen Drum Machine” seem to walk the line of high-energy optimism and cynicism. The record is in many ways a “picaresque tale” of a long journey home.

“But ‘home’ isn’t anywhere on this earth,” he explains. “It’s just that place inside where you can be alone with your memories, your truth, your lies, your wins and losses, your loves and regrets. . . . That said, I certainly cover a lot of ground, lyrically, and in terms of character portraits and vignettes and stuff. I don’t think I’ll ever get away from that completely, even on a record as primarily confessional as this one.”

Through his solo work—as well as with his efforts with NC Music Love Army, Stand Against HB2, and coordinating with other groups for social justice—Lindsay’s advocacy continues to spread. “There’s nothing like knowing, categorically, you’re doing absolutely everything you can to be on the front lines,” he says. “We’ve all got to do so much more than vote. We’ve all got to do what we can, where we can. If not us, then who?”

For a complete list of performers in Wilmington, or to volunteer or purchase tickets, visit the HB2 website, standagainstHB2.com.

Stand Against HB2 Benefit Concert
Featuring Jon Lindsay and over a dozen other artists
Sun. July 31, 12 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Brooklyn Arts Center
516 N. 4th St.
Tickets: $15 adv., $25 VIP balcony
Kids 12 and under, free

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