Earlier this week, Black Pussy announced the cancellation of yet another concert, this one at Seattle's Funhouse that was originally scheduled for Saturday, March 17. The all-white, all-male rock band's next show is Friday, March 9 at Portland's Paris Theatre, and despite the recent cancelations, the venue's co-owner Brad McCray insists the show will go on.
In a statement posted to the band's Facebook page on Monday, they cite "scenester and racist bullshit" as the reason for the Funhouse shutdown in Seattle:
But, as the Mercury's sister paper the Stranger points out in a new interview with frontman Dustin Hill, it was actually Funhouse owner Dana Sims who decided to cancel the show "after some constructive discussions with people I love and respect both in the scene and the community at large."
In the interview, Hill admits that Sims did cancel the gig, but explains that he didn't "want to work with people who are racist and sexist and not inclusive. That’s what they are, so since they’re pulling the plug on us, I’m pulling the plug on them, simultaneously." (Ah, yes—the old "you can't fire me, I quit" defense.)
Black Pussy—who formed in Portland in 2012, though in the Stranger interview Hill says he now lives in Tuscon—has caught plenty of flack for their name, which many believe is blatantly racist and sexist (myself included; last year Stranger music calendar editor Kim Selling and I referenced Black Pussy in our essay "Is Your Band Sexist, or Are Womxn Just Annoying?"). In 2015, nearly 2,000 people signed a Change.org petition calling for the band to change their name and for concertgoers to boycott the venues that book them.
"I don’t understand why people are upset with the name," Hill insists in the interview. "The name is ambiguous, a multi-entendre. It’s art, and art is ambiguous—at least my art is. And it’s rock and roll, real basic shit. We’re just trying to have a good time. These identity politics… I don’t get it. It has nothing to do with my band."
Later in the piece, Selling responds to Hill's claims that those who respond negatively to their name are "racist and sexist and not inclusive":
“If you make a choice that is rooted in white privilege and systemic racism and sexism, like naming your all-white-man rock group Black Pussy, you have to take responsibility for that choice. Reverse racism is not a real thing, and no one is oppressing you by telling you why you’re wrong or not booking your band or canceling your show for having a racist and sexist name. In fact, those actions are accurate and measured responses to your initial choice. Free speech and the First Amendment being what they are, the judicial system cannot (and will not ever) 'punish' you, which is why your dumb ass is handled by the court of public opinion. If you’re fed up with being called out, here’s a thoughtful suggestion: Change your fucking band name."
Hill estimates that of the roughly 200 shows the band plays each year, about five are cancelled. Last March, Black Pussy was removed from the bill of their own tour kickoff at the Kenton Club after they said the venue was "bullied" by "a motivated and insecure group." Earlier this month, the band's concert at the Hi Hat in Los Angeles was canceled, which they say was due to threats received by the venue and promoter (one screenshot they posted says, "If the Hi Hat doesn't cancel Black Pussy, me and my crew are going to throw pig's blood all over the bands, the staff, and the venue. They need to know that racism and sexism has consequences!").
Two weeks ago, the Mercury reached out to the Paris Theatre's McCray to ask if he was familiar with the backlash against Black Pussy's name and if the upcoming Portland show at his venue might be pulled in light of recent cancelations in other cities. He responded with the following statement:
"I cannot speak for other businesses cancelling events or the reason a band name became the cause du jour.
The Paris Theatre supports artists, free speech and find the objections to this band rich with hypocrisy.
Whatever reason the band had for choosing the name, they have stated strongly they feel it represents them. We cannot ask artists to be concerned with, limited by, nor cater to that segment of society wringing their hands and quivering in the night.
As Americans, we cannot imagine ourselves progressive while ignoring the basic protections of our country. The first amendment also extends to messages that are unpleasant or confusing.
All of the objections we have read regarding the band refer to the race and gender of the band. Their music is not racist, sexist or offensive and it is not difficult to imagine changing the race and or gender of one member would dispel the controversy. Therefore, it is not the NAME of the band bothering some people, but the RACE and GENDER of the band with that name. We suggest those offended re-examine their own casual and embarrassingly blatant biases."