Like many artists touring this summer, Matchbox Twenty frontman and solo artist Rob Thomas reconsidered playing North Carolina because of House Bill 2. He and Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz ultimately decided to bring their co-bill to PNC Music Pavilion, which they’ll do Wednesday.
It wasn’t a decision he took lightly.
“Obviously, we went through that in our heads,” said Thomas, who’s worked with The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that focuses on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth. He recently received its ally award.
“I didn’t feel like my absence would make a difference” unlike, say, Bruce Springsteen’s cancellation over the bill, he said, calling from his tour bus en route from New York to Florida. Instead, he and Duritz decided to donate money to LGBTQ causes and spread awareness of what Thomas describes as “this idea of centralized hate.”
As a heterosexual rock singer, who married wife Marisol Maldonado in 1999 (“Vera Wang pointed out we’re the only couple from those ‘InStyle’ weddings that are still married”), Thomas may seem like an unexpected ally for LGBTQ causes.
But “you’re talking about civil rights issues. People having a problem with the way someone was born – and a huge amount of my friends are part of that community, some of the most beautiful people and relationships I can think of. I know gay Christians. And the idea that God doesn’t love them as much as they love someone else?” Thomas asks. “It’s weird that so much of a fuss is made because someone wants to be on the right side of history. That there’s a distinction made and an award exists.”
Thomas had a brush with homophobia early on.
“I grew up in the South and when I was in high school there was a rumor that I was gay and all my friends stopped hanging out with me. Instead of getting upset, even at 15, I was like ‘(Expletive) you guys.’ I got new friends,” he recalls with a laugh.
Thomas grew up in Columbia and Lake City before moving to Florida.
“I’d (also) spent a lot of time in North Carolina. There’s an old guard in North Carolina, but the people there are growing up in a more tolerant world with a more tolerant mind view. People with that way of thinking are dying out,” he says. “When younger people get in the position of making laws and vote locally – that’s where the change is.”
He says he expected the legislation to be repealed by now.
“We’re in a world where gay marriage is a legal mandate. And we’re still talking about where somebody goes to the bathroom?”
Counting Crows and Rob Thomas
This is the first time alt-rock vets Rob Thomas and Counting Crows have toured together. “We’ve been friends for 20 years,” says Thomas, who recognizes the Crows and his band’s similar paths. “(Crows’ album) ‘August and Everything After’ came out about five years before Matchbox did and we were all part of the last gasp of the record business where our records sold 20 million copies.”
When: 6:45 p.m. July 27.
Where: PNC Music Pavilion, 707 Pavilion Blvd.