Queer Country Saves Ottawa From Fascists
That subject line not an overstatement, even. If you’ve been following the news of the “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa, a number of truckers have essentially been laying siege to the city as a form of protesting vaccine mandates. The success of the blockade – it’s listed for several weeks now, I believe – has inspired similar attempts by fascists in other countries. I am old enough to remember when truckers tried to pull this stunt in NYC after Biden was elected in November 2020, so I want to make it clear to everyone here that this is not random, the attempts to replicate it are not copycats, and we are living in a moment when literal fascists are trying to disrupt our lives!
And queer country music is being used as a tool to disrupt it. Sort of.
I was captivated by this Twitter thread describing how antifascist resisters have taken over the truckers’ communication channels, sowing distrust by posing as supporters only to…troll users with a song called “Ram Ranch.” I am reluctant to link to it both because it is EXTREMELY unsafe for work: in it, Grant MacDonald reads a spoken word ode to cowboy orgies over a heavy metal backing track. MacDonald is from Prince Edward Island so it’s as if an extra from Letterkenney decided to read their erotica outloud.
My first instinct when I listened to part of the song (I couldn’t get through it) was to feel annoyed. Much like all of those “Putin and Trump are gay for each other lol” jokes in 2016 was not the dunking that liberals thought it was, using graphic depictions of gay sex to disgust truckers is…still homophobic? In my mind, the gay sex is the joke. Plus, it assumes that truckers are inherently homophobic.
But as it turns out, “Ram Ranch” is a protest song. MacDonald wrote it after being turned down by Nashville because his songs about love between cowboys was “too gay.” I’ve reached out to MacDonald for comment and hope to share his experiences in the country industry with you all here.
Either way, it’s an effective tactic that New Zealand and other countries are adopting (with G-rated lyrics). This article has a little more information on MacDonald, as well as describing other methods Ottawans are using to fight back.
What do you think? Am I being too sensitive? Hitting that “reply” button in your e-mail app will go straight to me!
##Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Sarah Shook’s new album Nightroamer is out TODAY! I am writing this Thursday afternoon so I cannot link to it, but you know where to find music you like. Here’s an excerpt from my profile of them on The Boot.
Another big change for Shook is that they have come out as non-binary to their fans since the pandemic began. While Shook feels their being out has not impacted their career trajectory, they can see the positive impacts of being out on their personal life.
“A lot of the anxiety issues that I’ve dealt with have been from that expectation of being a certain way or acting a certain way. Letting all of those things just kind of slide off like water has been awesome.” Shook explored their identity during lockdown, arriving at “place of freedom.”
Shook has endured a fraught journey towards that place, growing up in a conservative religious household and struggling with substance use. Their songs don’t offer a roadmap to freedom, but Shook hopes they point their listeners towards a place of self-awareness.
“One of the tricky things about self-awareness is that you have to be willing to be really vulnerable because when you’re aware of yourself, there are going to be things that you discover that you don’t like, or that you are embarrassed by, or that you want to change,” Shook says. “I think that’s why most people don’t really ever want to open that door. But it might end up being the most rewarding thing you do for yourself and your whole life.”
Shook has used that introspection to advocate for equity within country music: when possible, the band actively searches for artists from marginalized communities to open for them on tour. Shook is encouraged by the work the Black Opry is doing to create and maintain space for Black country and Americana artists, but wants to see white artists be more outspoken.
“White artists are afraid to talk about Black artists – and anything related to race. If we’re going to make any kind of impact, we have to not be afraid to talk about this s—.”
- Trans folk singer Eli Conley is taking an interest check for online queer and trans music classes
- I interviewed Amy Martin about why it’s important to be out in Americana music
- Australian trans folk singer Archer Phan told me about how transitioning has improved his songwriting
- Happy belated Valentine’s Day from me and Austin LGBTQ+ bar Cheer Up Charlie’s
##Rainbow Rodeo Playlist
Updates every two weeks!
- Submit your music and events to The Q LGBTQ Creative Network
- Submit your profile to the Country Everywhere which seeks to unite BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled artists and professionals
- A bunch of indie labels want to hear your music!
- Black artists are encouraged to sign up for the Black Opry Revue so they can contact you when they hit your town!
- Producer and artist Jessica Boudreaux of Summer Cannibals is cooking something up and wants to hear from queer artists on Twitter