Yo La Tengo played their show in Nashville in costumes on Monday night (March 13), in what appeared to be a protest against the state’s restrictive new cross-dressing law.
Earlier this month, Tennessee became the first U.S. state to sign a law banning “adult cabaret” in public places or anywhere children can see, including “men or women imitating entertainment that arouses lustful interest, or similar entertainers.”.
The statute, which means a ban on drag performances in public places, which is due to come into force on April 1, and similar laws are reportedly being promoted in other Republican states.
Ira and James playing in drag yesterday in Tennessee, in response to the anti-drag bill that passed just some weeks ago.
Yo La Tengo for president, someone said at Yellowjackets, and I agree.
[Photo by Chris Conrad, via FB] pic.twitter.com/Za6LTr2Jie
— Ethel Baraona Pohl (@ethel_baraona) March 14, 2023
According to The Tennessean, in the second half of Yo La Tengo’s performance at The Basement East, band members Ira Kaplan and James McNew returned dressed in clothes before performing “This Stupid World”.
Kaplan put on makeup, put on a red dress and a black wig, and McNew put on a shawl and a sun hat.
The group did not mention the new law directly, but said in a statement (via Pitchfork): “What we did last night could not have been clearer and does not require further comment.”
The group’s statement came after The B-52s shared a post on social networks condemning bills against drag artists and transgender people in the United States, with the latter referring to a separate law passed to limit the medical care of transgender youth confirming gender.
“Dear fellow citizens, We, The B-52, are deeply concerned about the numerous new bills promoting transphobia and discrimination against transgender and drag artists that have been introduced to the United States,” they wrote on Twitter.
Dear fellow citizens,
We, The B-52’s, are deeply concerned about the numerous new bills that promote transphobia and discrimination against transgender individuals and drag artists, which have been introduced in the United States. We strongly denounce these bills and stand in pic.twitter.com/mzMROe4pxE
— The B-52s (@TheB52s) March 8, 2023
“We strongly condemn these bills and stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ+ community.
Their statement also followed a statement by Hayley Williams from Paramore, who criticized anti-LGBTQIA+ bills in her home state of Tennessee.
“Dragging is not a crime. Gender-affirming healthcare for everyone, including our youth, is a necessity,” she wrote.
In a statement shared with The Tennessean, Stella Yarbrough, legal director of the ACLU of Tennessee, said: “I want to be very clear: the law just signed does not make it illegal to perform in costumes in Tennessee. The law prohibits obscene performances, and drag performances are not inherently obscene.
“However, we are concerned that government officials could easily abuse this law to censor people based on their own subjective views of what they consider appropriate, restricting protected freedom of speech and sending a message to LGBT Tennesseans that they are not welcome in our state.”
Next week, Williams, Sheryl Crow and others are going to play an LGBTQ+ charity concert in Tennessee.
Elsewhere, Bonnaru promised to remain a “haven for people of all walks of life” after a law was passed restricting public performances with drag.