Theoden Janes

Why canceling concerts over HB2 makes no sense

Bruce Springsteen recently canceled a Greensboro concert in response to North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2.
Bruce Springsteen recently canceled a Greensboro concert in response to North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2. Associated Press

Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that you really enjoy the stories I write. (I realize this might be a stretch, but bear with me.)

Now let’s say I oppose House Bill 2 and that I think Gov. Pat McCrory is being short-sighted.

So then, consider this: If I decided to stop writing stories for the Observer to protest the controversial legislation, would it motivate you – assuming you agree with my politics in the first place – to make a sign and march on the state capitol building in Raleigh? Or would it just make you disappointed, frustrated and angry?

I think the answer in almost every case will be B.

This was reinforced on Monday, when I learned pop stars Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas were canceling their summer concerts in Charlotte and Raleigh to protest “North Carolina’s discriminatory HB2 law.” “We trust that you will stand united with us against this hateful law,” they said in a joint statement.

I’m not sure exactly what kind of reaction they were expecting.

But, as someone who was planning to be there, mine was not: Preach, Brother Nick and Sister Demi! It was more like: Thanks a lot, you two, for driving a stake through the heart of what probably would have been a fun and memorable daddy-daughter date night.

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe House Bill 2 is disturbingly problematic, and I do believe McCrory needs to fully own up to how disturbingly problematic it is. But I also believe performing artists are doing more harm than good by continuing to cancel shows in North Carolina.

I mean, just take a look at the immediate Twitter response to the Lovato-Jonas announcement from McCrory’s campaign: “(They’re) getting involved in things they clearly don’t know anything about” and “protesting political differences by denying their service, punishing their own fans & hardworking people of NC.”

Do these sound like people who are even the least bit open to considering a repeal of HB2?

And yet, despite the rhetoric and the name-calling, I agree with the notion that artists are punishing their own fans – and missing a real opportunity.

McCrory’s campaign proved it with that response. Despite politically motivated cancellations by acts like Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Ringo Starr, Cirque du Soleil, Boston, Blue Man Group, and now Lovato and Jonas, supporters of HB2 have done nothing except dig in their heels.

In other words, these lines drawn in the sand aren’t leading to any sort of positive change.

What’s the solution, then, if you’re a musician that wants to make a difference in our state? Simple: Get your butt over here. Get on that stage. And get your anti-discrimination message out there to your fans with some passion.

Do what Mumford & Sons did, which was to donate all profits from its April 14 show at Time Warner Cable Arena to LGBT-focused organizations that will include Time Out Youth and Equality NC. Or do what Duran Duran did April 16 at PNC Music Pavilion, which was to pass out Trans Lifeline buttons and sign a petition against HB2 onstage during the show.

Cyndi Lauper is coming to Raleigh on June 4, and is dedicating “the entire day to build public support to repeal HB2,” she said on Facebook earlier this month, adding: “I look forward to coming to North Carolina and standing up for equality and fairness.”

Look, I get what you tried to do there, Bruce and Ringo. But you’re essentially kicking the cat because the dog peed on the carpet.

North Carolina repealed HB2 in 2017 but left intact some of its provisions. But with Charlotte’s reputation tainted, the city is still paying to market itself to visitors.

Janes: 704-358-5897;

Twitter: @theodenjanes

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