Opinion: Pearl Jam had better options

Danny Clinch/Web photo
<br />Pearl Jam is one of several acts to cancel scheduled performances in NC recently because of HB2.
Viewing Photo 1 / 2

Danny Clinch/Web photo
Pearl Jam is one of several acts to cancel scheduled performances in NC recently because of HB2.

By David Singleton


Pearl Jam, you had one job – and you blew it.

When the musically gifted grungers made the move to cancel their recent gig at Raleigh’s PNC arena, they acted well within their rights to pull out as conscientious objectors to recent legislation passed by the North Carolina General Assembly. They also missed out an incredible opportunity.

Pearl Jam joined a list of artists and businesses narrowing their scope of business in our state in retaliation for the passage of HB2; a hastily-passed bill originally designed to upend a Charlotte city ordinance allowing self-identification to guide patron’s restroom selection in public facilities (as opposed to the biological standard). Another provision of the bill usurps power from local and state governments in areas where there isn’t a history of grievance — a legally more dangerous consequence of this legislation — but the ‘self-identification’ concept is a hot button issue for those concerned with advancing rights and protections for the LBGT community. Ringo Starr and Bruce Springsteen are two other notable acts that have recently pulled concert dates from their itinerary citing HB2 as discriminatoryBut Pearl Jam’s beef isn’t with their fans. It’s highly unlikely that many attendees of the once sold-out show would be in agreement with the HB2 provisions against transgenders or those who have a sense of solidarity with the LBGT community at large. It’s even less likely that Governor McCrory would be in attendance. He probably would have been booed out of the arena if he dared to show up. And though artists and musicians have every right to espouse whatever political opinions they wish, their job is ostensibly to entertain. They most assuredly had a contract to play Raleigh, and it would be surprising if there were an out-clause based on their personal approval (or lack thereof) with legislation passed in the interim.

There’s very little doubt that HB2 is problematic on many levels, but the passage of this statute merely reminds us that there are dumb laws everywhere. No one knows how many laws, rules and regulations even exist is this land of the free, and it’s certain the body of law as whole is self-contradictory and that many laws presently on the books are decidedly arcane. If one was to look closely enough, any musical act or business could find a reason not to do business in any city. A statute in South Carolina forbids oral sex and there’s one in Pennsylvania that criminalizes anal sex. Both of these laws could just as easily be considered discriminatory in the same way as HB2, yet the band performed shows in each of these states within a week of the North Carolina cancellation. 

Pearl Jam has always been political, and using one’s stage to promote a heartfelt belief is a natural extension of a band’s personality. There’s no shame in that if that’s the way one chooses to play it, but in this instance there were better alternatives: playing the show and directing the proceeds to fund a grass roots movement to repeal the measure, or perhaps directly supporting pro-LBGT causes (as Cyndi Lauper has announced for her upcoming Raleigh appearance). Even simply using the stage as a soap box in this election year would be more constructive means to score political points. Taking your mic and going home accomplishes none of these goals — it only serves to make the issue more divisive.

Lastly, the show in Raleigh was scheduled for April 20, which would have been the 52nd birthday of Tim ‘Skully’ Quinlan. Skully died suddenly working an unrelated show at Walnut Creek Amphitheater on April 6, but was a long-time roadie and guitar tech for Pearl Jam, actually being the first roadie the band ever hired.  Skully was an ECU alum and worked with me back in the day at WZMB as a reggae DJ. I was looking forward to a tribute by the band for Skully, but sometimes politics gets in the way.

Login or register to post comments