The First Gay Country Band Is Adopted By A New Generation Of Radicals
Lavender Country, the first known gay country band formed in 1972, has found a new audience, and founder Patrick Haggerty has a certain way of describing them: “I call them the pink-haired, anarcho, fuck-you crowd. Now you know who I’m talking about, right? And listen, they are my comrades.”
I interviewed Haggerty over the phone about Lavender Country’s revival, and he raved about his new supporters. He said that young people were largely responsible for the Seattle-based band’s recent recognition, especially those who facilitated their 2016 Seattle show at the now-defunct Office Space. The show kicked off a new wave of interest in the band, which has been performing with a rotating lineup of local musicians, and Haggerty, “The Grandfather of Gay Country,” singing and playing guitar at the helm. He expects the “pink-haired, anarcho screamers” at Saturday’s all-age show at the Black Lodge, where Lavender Country will play with Portland punk band Soft Butch.
“Even though our genres are quite different, the politics of what’s going on with Lavender Country and what’s going on with y’all is really a tight fit,” Haggerty tells me. “I love it. I can’t stand your music, but I love your politics. That’s how I feel about it, and I really appreciate the support that I’ve got from that crowd. I love doing shows with that crowd.
“The thing that I notice about [performing with younger bands] is that y’all are screaming and really loud and really blaring and really in-your-face, and really know how to be rude and obnoxious, especially to the right people. But when I do a Lavender Country show to you folks, all the noise falls away, the crowd is quiet, really, really respectful, really appreciative, [and they] want to hear every word I have to say. They agree with my politics, and that’s what they’re after.”
“The level of just flat-out respect that I get from your crowd is really quite mind-blowing and touches the heart. You don’t even know me, right? It’s the political solidarity that’s so heartfelt. One of the reasons that I appreciate that so much is because when I wrote Lavender Country, 50 fucking years ago, I was speaking to you all. It took the unfolding of several decades, and this descent into madness of right-wing politics, for my message to be heard. You all are hearing the message really well,” Haggerty commends.
The eponymous album Lavender Country debuted in 1973 with songs like, “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears,” “Back In The Closet Again,” and “Can’t Shake The Stranger Out Of You.” The band performed at Seattle pride in 1974, and other LGBTQ events until their dissolution in 1976. Involved in gay rights and anti-racist movements throughout his life, Haggerty describes himself at different points in our interview as a “screaming Marxist bitch,” a former “bathhouse slut,” and a “rabidly socialist, Trotskyist, feminist, queer.” It’s easy to see why queer punks revere him.
The early 2000s saw a rerelease of Lavender Country, the documentary These C*cksucking Tears, and a ballet interpretation of Lavender Country by San Francisco company Post:Ballet. Those are just a few notable points from the highlight reel.
The level of just flat-out respect that I get from your crowd is really quite mind-blowing and touches the heart. You don’t even know me, right? It’s the political solidarity that’s so heartfelt.”
Trixie Mattel’s new album Barbara features a cover of “Can’t Shake The Stranger Out Of You,” listed on the album as just “Stranger.” Trixie also recorded a duet with Haggerty scheduled to release around this year’s Pride festivities. Haggerty mentions there’s whispers of a Lavender Country-inspired screenplay circulating around Hollywood, and talks of more tours and gigs.
The recent commercial buzz around Lavender Country is interesting to Haggerty, but he doesn’t take it too seriously. He’s more interested in reaching his new supporters, even if he doesn’t get their music. “Really, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the support that I’ve gotten from your crowd the whole way along,” Haggerty says. “I know that you’re true friends. I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle the music that you do. I can hardly handle the music that Soft Butch does. I have earplugs, and I use them, and sometimes I have to exit because the music is just too loud for me, but the politic is solid and I know it, and I know you’re with me.”
Good for us there’s three opportunities to catch Lavender Country in the next few weeks.