When the news hit that Schnitzelburg venue and bar The Cure Lounge was closing, a lot of people, bands and artists realized they were about to be without a home base. That includes DJ Duncan Cherry. The Louisville native has been spinning at The Cure since its opening weekend. LEO caught up with Cherry to talk about what will happen after the Cure closes its doors this Friday, May 18.
LEO: So how did you get started at The Cure? Duncan Cherry: I actually met Floyd Freels, Alison Freels’ husband, probably in high school because he owns Riot Skatepark. [Alison Freels owns The Cure, but not the building in which it’s located.] Then, a couple years ago, myself and some friends, and Floyd and Alison went on vacation together. And I didn’t really know them as well at the time, but right after we got back is when they opened the bar. They asked me to DJ the first weekend they were open. We both enjoyed the vibe, so we made it a consistent thing.
You DJ a couple of different nights, right? Including the one called ‘Spring Break’? I’ve been doing Spring Break for six years. I was doing it at Haymarket, here and there, and a couple other places. But I finally found my home at The Cure. So I’ve been doing it there four years. It’s just sort of the music I grew up listening too. Late ‘80s, ‘90s, early 2000s, hip-hop, R&B throwbacks. I do a thing called Emo Night, which is sort of the angsty teenage years that a lot of people had, when bands were super cool, and Gadzooks, and Hot Topic, skateboarding, Warped Tour. Like, you know, when everybody hated their parents. Now, everybody is on good terms with their parents but still likes that music. Those are my two main nights at The Cure. We’ve done some other theme nights, but those are the two running ones.
So… like, do you have a home? For next? Are you going to start scoping out new places? I’ve had a couple people contact me about moving some events. We’re doing the thing on Friday for The Cure’s last night, and I’ll probably take June off. I’d like to find a new home, but the thing about The Cure, is that it’s such a… it’s its own place. But I don’t wanna quit DJing..
So what’s special about The Cure? The Cure, I actually think they won a LEO award for this a couple of years ago, like, The Most Eclectic Group of People at any bar in the city. On any given night, there’s been me DJing hip-hop up front, and like, a metal show going on in the back. Or there’s a drag show going on while I’m doing Emo Night. It is the ultimate everyone bar. It’s just as much queer as it is straight, and just as much punk as it is hip. You’ll meet people that live in the neighborhood and walked to the bar, and you’ll meet people that live in nice houses on the other side of town, or college kids, or like, older folks will come to just get a drink and chat. It’s just always been the place for everybody that might not have a place. they feel comfortable.
When did you find out that The Cure was closing down? I knew that they were looking at getting out of being involved with the bar. Floyd still runs his skate park, and two people that own a business hardly ever see each other. They were going to try to sell the bar, but then some things happened, and the landlord decided to sell the building.
What was your reaction emotionally? I took me a little bit to really… I’ve been able to really do my own thing there, and create an environment, and people come there for the environment, as opposed to DJing at a popular bar on Fourth Street. I’ve put a lot of work into it. I’ve made flyers for every month I’ve been there, so probably 75 or 80 flyers if not more. I’ve put heart and work into it. And of course, Mikey [Roges] the bartender and I are really close. If I DJ somewhere else, Mikey won’t be there. Which is part of the environment. He’s an integral part of everything. Not to mention Elliot [Turton] has been running sound and booking bands there for the last couple of years, and, I mean, he’s brought in so many great bands and shows. I definitely am sad about it. Just because there’s so many people who do such specific and really great artistic things that won’t have a home, or a place to do it. The bar pretty much never charged anyone to use the space, it was always an open space for whoever wanted to do something, so it really gave a lot of people like, a place to create and jump off to get things moving.
Any inside word on what the space will be next? I don’t think it will be a bar again … I really hope no one buys the property, tears it down and puts a condo there. I’m pretty sure the building is a historical building, there’s like a placard. So hopefully no one will tear it down.
What do you wanna see happen next? I want to see something else that will be open to all walks of life. Like, some people don’t go to certain bars for certain reasons. As a queer person, there is an element of ‘is this space safe for me to be in, is it safe for me to express myself?’ I hope that everybody who’s creative, doing outside the box things, really sees this as a reason for all of us to continue to support each other, and make things happen.
“A quesadilla ($7.49) featured a creamy, savory mix of refried black beans — a flavorful spin on the usual pintos — and earthy Oaxaca cheese folded into a tender white-flour tortilla and topped with tangy crema and a mound of fresh-made pico de gallo. A typical Mexican dish, yes, but the Con Huevos touch puts it all together in perfect proportions so every element has an equal voice in the chorus.” Location: 4938 U.S. 42 Noise level: When there’s a crowd, it does get noisy, but we could talk with our table companions. (Average sound level 74-84 dB.) Accessibility: There are no apparent barriers to wheelchair users.
“A variety of fried chicken, fish and rib tips dinners range from $3.50 (for a trio of wings) to $8.50 (for a three-piece chicken, barbecue rib tips or fried fish dinner). Sandwiches — a burger, fish sandwich or ‘Dread Loc’ wrap — are $6.50 with potato wedges or fries, $5 alone.
In two visits, we made a good start toward sampling the entire menu. Nothing disappointed us, and quite a few of the dishes made our taste buds stop and go: ‘Whoa!'” Location: 708 Louis Coleman Jr. Drive or 414 W. Oak St. Noise level: Quiet enough for easy conversation; the volume on two screens tuned to ESPN was turned down low. (Average sound level 63-70 dB.) Accessibility: The level entrance forms no barrier to wheelchair users.
“The multi-page menu starts with about 18 appetizers that range from $5 (for a feta plate, rice, fries, onion rings or even a plate of fried pickles) to $23 (for a lavish mazza sampler plate with your choice of five from a dozen apps). A dozen sandwiches are $7 (for that labneh sandwich) to $12 (for double gyros, with twice the usual amount of meat and toppings on an oversized pita). Eight meals, main-course portions, plus choice of rice, fries or onion rings are $11 (for falafels or chicken shawarma) to $16 (for the double gyros, again, with sides).” Location: 37 Bank St. Noise level: Conversation is easy, even with many tables occupied at lunch. (Average sound level 65-72 dB.) Accessibility: Built entirely on the level, it appears to offer no obstacles to wheelchair users.
“Honey-roasted butternut squash risotto ($23) got it right on the first try. Risotto is challenging for restaurants because it’s best made fresh, a 30-minute process requiring constant attention. The secret is to make a batch in advance, stopping the process with a quick chill, then finishing each portion to order. This can easily screw up the texture of the rice, but Marketplace got it right with a creamy, luscious almost-porridge loaded with roasted root veggie dice and spinach, topped with a generous dab of silken labna (Arabian yogurt cheese) sprinkled with crunchy pumpkin seeds.” Location: 651 S. Fourth St. Noise level: On a quiet evening with few customers and soft jazz on the sound system, conversation is easy. (Average sound level 60-70 dB.) Accessibility: This completely-renovated building appears fully accessible to wheelchair users, with no steps or bumps.
“Margherita pizza ($13) was filling if a bit idiosyncratic, varying the traditional recipe with a potent lake of roasted garlic puree added to the gooey mozzarella, sliced plum tomatoes and snipped basil. The thin, crackery, pale-tan crust reminded me a bit of whole-wheat matzo, not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Location: 300 W. Main St. Noise level: Variable. At best, conversation ranges from easy to possible, but noisy neighbors can spike the sound to a dull roar. (Average sound level 75-85, with peaks to 95.) Accessibility: The three-floor restaurant is accessible to wheelchair users via a ramp and one-person elevator at the entrance on the Third Street side.
Mystery at the Museum Kentucky Science Center $40 members, $45 nonmembers | 6-9 p.m. We love science. We love local food and booze. So we really love when Kentucky Science Center hosts its adults-only nights. This time, you and your 21-and-over friends get to eat and drink around the museum while trying to solve a mystery. You can try solving it solo or in teams. You’ll also find help, thanks to “forensics partners” Kentucky State Police Forensics Lab, UofL Department of Biology, Louisville Metro Police Crime Scene Unit and the FBI. Or just drink, socialize and wait for the “big reveal.” Admission comes with a cocktail and themed hors d’oeuvre from Masterson’s Catering. A cash bar rounds out the rest of the fun. —Aaron Yarmuth
Mighty Kindness Hoot Waterfront Park, Brown Forman Amphitheater Free | Noon-7 p.m. Mighty Kindness Hoot is a celebration of… you guessed it… kindness. Expect booths and workshops focused on health, sustainability, spirituality and community. And live music by bands that include Danny Flanigan & The Rain Chorus, Villa Mure, RMLLW2LLZ, Tez of 2Deep, HPK Threshold, Poppa Stampley, The Juggerloos and Gavin Caster.
Fundraising Concert for Democratic Mayoral Candidate Ryan Fenwick The Butchertown Social $5 | 9 p.m. Ryan Fenwick is a mayoral candidate challenging Mayor Greg Fischer for the Democratic nomination, and he believes in “putting compassion into action,” according to his campaign website. If that intrigues you, head to this fundraising concert where you can help Fenwick raise money and awareness of his campaign in the final days of his campaign. Bands performing include Twenty First Century Fox, Brett Eugene Ralph’s Kentucky Chrome Revue.
Kite Flying Extravaganza Bob Hill’s Hidden Hill Nursery Free | 10 a.m.-5 p.m. With warm weather upon us, what better way to celebrate than by flying kites? Head to Bob Hill’s Hidden Hill Nursery for a kite flying extravaganza where you can make and fly your own kite (or bring your own). There’s also a butterfly dome with plenty of beautiful butterflies inside to enjoy.
LIBA Buy Local Fair 2018 Louisville Water Tower Park No cover | 12-6 p.m. This is one of our favorite events of the year — a day of fun, authentic Louisville culture. LIBA, the Louisville Independent Business Alliance, brings together 200 local businesses for the local, outdoor market of all outdoor markets. There’s free stuff and entertainment, too. Expect live music; a cooking competition using a bag of mystery (local) ingredients from Foxhollow Farm; and the ValuMarket Craft Beer, Bourbon & Brandy Tent. Be a judge in the Wilson Muir Bank Drink Local Craft Cocktail Competition, and bring the family for the Kids Zone. LEO will be there, too! Start your Buy Local Fair with LEO’s scavenger hunt (Booth No. 59!). Complete the hunt for a chance to win a Crosley Cruiser Abbey Road Turntable and two Abbey Road On The River tickets. Parking is $5, while bicycles are free. See you Sunday!
More than 500 women are running for U.S. House and Senate seats this year, an almost 70 percent increase over 2016. And in Kentucky, record numbers of women are running for state legislature seats this election year: Of the more than 200 candidates for state House positions, almost half of them are women.
It took only 242 years for a warning shot to ignite this rebellion.
OK, 242 years plus a well-qualified woman candidate for president of the United States besting her opponent by a zig of 3 million “popular” votes, only to lose to the zag of the Electoral College, 306 to 232.
Even worse, his White House win got a big assist from — wait for it — white women who voted for… A male candidate with no political experience who was caught bragging about his right to grab women’s nethers, even after 19 women — 19! — went public well before Election Day and accused him of such and similar sexual misconduct.
I can’t even. Still.
But, back to 242 years ago — this glass ceiling is a certified, fossilized antique — and the warning shot and eventual rebellion.
Abigail Adams, who wouldn’t be our second first lady for another score or so, was on to something big and Usain Boltishly ahead of her time when she wrote a 1776 note to husband John. He was toiling away from home (guess who was looking after the kids) along with other forefathers in birthing the Y-chromosome-only ancestor to our eventually evolved, 2X-inclusive descendant nation. The founding documents they scribbled wouldn’t represent or include women specifically for, like, ever.
I can’t even. Again.
But, nevertheless persisting, back to Abigail and her prescience of mind and spirit. On March 31, 1776, she wrote to John (italics added for emphasis):
“… In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention are not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
They didn’t have mics then, but, someone, please knit sister Abigail an honorary pussy hat for that resounding drop. She didn’t get anything else for it.
Despite her sage advice, the guys baby-stepped the equality thing: Ladies, present but unaccounted for in the Declaration signed four months after Abigail’s written jab to John. Ladies, also absent in the Constitution ratified in 1788. Ladies, finally remembered — are we there yet? — in the 19th Amendment, which conferred on women the right to vote 20 years into the 20th century.
I promise we’re almost to Kentucky. But first…
That rebellion Abigail wrote about, lo, those many years ago?
Another century after gaining the right to vote, then the zig and that zag and …
Boom! Hello, 2017!
The spark had been there for a while, in multiple “years of the woman” that flickered but didn’t quite catch. Then, the self-professed grabber took the oath of office, which served as kindling for the next day: A bonfire for his vanities — Donald Trump lied about his inauguration crowd size — in the form of a huge women’s march in Washington and other cities at home and abroad. Crowd scientists said three times as many people marched in D.C. as showed up for Trump’s dour “American carnage” fest, and the 4 million or so who clogged roads and streets from sea to shining sea and then some populated what’s believed to be the largest single-day demonstration since, well, Abigail Adams and recorded U.S. history.
Then … Boom, again! Hello, 2018!
The boil of 2017 never died down. More men-behaving-badly stories told by women (mostly) finally were widely aired. Unlike the Trump 19, maybe belatedly because of the Trump 19, they also were widely believed. The stories affected almost every imaginable industry. And all that fired not only the #MeToo movement, but the dreams and ambitions of women to run for public office in record numbers in order to be — remember this? the ladies did — the change they wanted to see in the world.
That brings us back to today: Nationally, more than 500 of Abigail’s daughters are up for election in the U.S. House and Senate.
And we’re walking, we’re walking and we’re here:
Abigail’s belated rebellion is rocking Kentucky, too.
Talk about unbridled spirit and sisters doing it for themselves.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes told The Associated Press that record numbers of women are running for state legislature seats this election year.
No love for women in Kentucky politics
This bonanza of women candidates is great news for people who prefer more than token diversity at the government officials’ table, for voters who want to meet a new boss who’s not necessarily the same as the old (mostly white, mostly male) boss, for citizens who might care more or differently about health care, education, pay equity, domestic violence, abortion rights and family well-being than today’s crew.
In truth, Kentucky pretty much can only do better in expanding representation, voice and choice. We can’t do much worse.
Women hold slight advantages in sheer population numbers and in the percentage of registered voters, but Kentucky rests on the lower rungs nationally at No. 42 in how many women serve — or rather, don’t — in the General Assembly.
Currently, in the Kentucky House, there are 10 Democratic women members and nine Republican women members; in the Senate, two Democrats are women, as are two Republicans. The grand total of 23 women in the state’s legislative chambers represents 16.7 percent of the 138-member whole; among Kentucky’s immediate neighbors, only West Virginia — thank goodness for West Virginia — ranks worse at 14.2 percent.
A longer view: Kentucky, the 15th state to enter the union in 1792, has had only one woman governor — Democrat Martha Layne Collins, elected 35 years ago; only two women to serve in Congress — Republican Katherine Langley, elected 92 years ago (she followed her husband into office after he resigned, having been popped for selling illegal booze during Prohibition) and Republican Anne Northup, elected 21 years ago; and no woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
Bootcamp for women candidates
Helping to pump up that volume is Emerge Kentucky, which is primed and ready to go as women step up and step out for another, different “me, too” movement.
Emerge trains and encourages Democratic women to run for public office.
And serve effectively.
In 2009, Kentucky was first in the South to start an affiliate and is one of 22 states in which it operates.
Emerge Kentucky has worked with almost 200 women in its short history, and 26 of them hold office, ranging from judge to city council member to state representative to county clerk to school board to mayor, throughout the state, according to Jennifer Moore, Emerge’s founder and board chair and former chair of the Kentucky State Democratic Party. Graduates who run have a 61 percent win rate. More than 60 Emerge graduates have filed to run for office. This year’s class was expanded to 30 members from the customary 20 to 25 to accommodate the record number of applicants.
Moore cited the “wake-up call” of the 2016 presidential election, the galvanizing turnout for the women’s marches and the subsequent #MeToo stories — including ones out of Frankfort — as reasons for more women seeking out Emerge and political engagement.
“Right now, we’re seeing a tremendous wave in Kentucky, of women finding their voices. They’re saying enough is enough, and they want a seat at the table,” Moore said.
‘When the door opens’
Two Emerge grads from Louisville who have found seats in the House — and at the table — are State Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, District 38 and State Rep. Attica Scott, District 41. Both were elected in 2016.
Cantrell said the program gives women a real opportunity to look inside themselves and to build their confidence levels. The second, invaluable part, she said, is the nuts-and-bolts information on how to run a campaign. “When the door opens,” she said, “you have to be prepared to walk through it. Emerge helps you do that.”
In addition to the attributes mentioned by Cantrell, Scott found a huge bonus to being an Emerge alum after she took office. “It opens the door to a statewide network,” she said. She talks about how her “Emerge sisters” offer support during legislative sessions. Scott is trying to build on that network by adding and enlisting women throughout the state to analyze legislation and come up with action plans via Facebook Live sessions. “We don’t have enough women (in Frankfort),” she said.
Cantrell was 30 when she was elected. Scott was the first African-American woman elected to the chamber in almost 20 years.
The two lawmakers and alums are, in their own way, a good microcosm of the diversity and the individuals Moore says are the goals and reality of every Emerge class: Women of racial diversity, geographical diversity, members from rural and urban settings, LGBT class members and women representing many professions and backgrounds, all possessing a passion to lead and to serve.
The group practices the representation it preaches.
There is testimony to that in the lives and hopes of members of the Class of 2018. Their stories serve as a cross section of Bluegrass women who have political aspirations and want to add their hands and voices to shaping today and tomorrow. They present an inspiring, exciting view of Kentucky and political possibilities. Here are but a few:
JoAnne Wheeler Bland of Elizabethtown is 73. Her lengthy resume includes serving as the president of the Democratic Women’s Club of Hardin County. She is a member of the board of directors of ACLU of Kentucky. The former attorney has served as a special justice on the Kentucky Supreme Court.
She knew from the time she was 5 and living as John that she was something more, someone different. “I would pray when I woke up that I could live and be the little girl I knew I was inside,” she said.
After 2011 and an eventual 41 hours of surgery, which aligned her body with her soul and spirit, she didn’t have to pray about that anymore. She doesn’t identify as transgender, but describes herself as “formerly a transwoman.” Her transition cost her a spouse, a law partner, a church family, some friends, but it delivered everything else: JoAnne and the life she had always imagined. Her only regret was that she didn’t do it sooner. She was no longer “buried,” and once freed from pretending to be who everyone else thought she was, she set her sights on learning and sharing and doing and being.
Getting involved politics and fairness issues is one expression of that. Bland was inspired by Danica Roem’s 2017 win of a seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates: The openly transgender Democrat defeated a Republican incumbent who described himself as “chief homophobe.”
In the same year, Bland also learned about Emerge and its “awesome” program. “I know the importance of Emerge. It’s almost a political sorority of women who have tremendous education and training,” she said.
Bland had never been through a job interview, but decided to apply for the next class. She didn’t know whether they would choose someone like her. They did. She is thrilled with the experience and proud of being part of a network of women with whom she has discovered much in common.
She hasn’t decided yet when and whether to run for office; she thinks her age could be a hindrance in the minds of some. But she does know what she brings to the table: “I bring an understanding of everyone. I have learned how both sides think. I always heard the term ‘white male privilege,’ but I had no idea what it meant until I lost it.”
That loss could be the voters’ gain. Stay tuned.
Velvet Dowdy of Henderson retired in 2017 after a public education career that included administration positions and 22 years as a science teacher. She didn’t stay idle for long.
Inspired by her father’s run for public office when she was only 8 and concerned about what she sees as a disdain for public education and teachers, the first-time candidate decided to run for a seat on the Henderson City Commission in order to serve her community and issues she feels are important. Her platform includes a quality education for all children, and jobs that pay a living wage.
“I’ve talked to so many women who are not happy about the way things are going,” she said, “that the work done by our mothers and grandmothers is beginning to be undone.”
Their daughters and granddaughters are showing up to shore it up.
‘Be the change you like to see’
Glasgow native LaToya Drake is a young, rural woman of color trying to upset an incumbent in the race for the District 23 House seat. She had originally filed to run for the city council, but when she saw that state Rep. Steve Riley was running unopposed, she joined that race. The nutrition educator, who also has worked as a substance abuse counselor, said she comes from a line of strong women and she wants to show the girls in her community that she and they can be the same. “It’s super important to be the change you like to see,” Drake said.
She thinks her unique life and work experience will add to the discussions in Frankfort and serve her community, and she places a premium on getting along better and listening better. Her presence will ensure more voices are being expressed and heard. Her focuses, if elected, would be education and agriculture — food insecurity is important to her — and meeting citizens’ needs for shelter and health care.
“Representation matters,” she said. “Reach for the stars.”
‘If I don’t step up, who will?’
When Charlotte Goddard’s legislators didn’t show up last year for a scheduled town hall meeting with constituents, she decided to hold one and invite them. State Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield, a no-show at the former gathering, agreed to attend the second meeting she set up in four days’ time, juggling work, home and details of setting up the town hall reboot. She expected 15 people to attend; 105 did, including three legislators. A week later, Emerge contacted her.
Despite Heath’s and the other legislators’ attendance, the Graves County schoolteacher still thought the legislators weren’t hearing their constituents. That built on her feeling that she and her fellow citizens were being let down by their elected officials, that public education was taking too many hits, that too much important dickering about big issues was taking place behind closed doors, that too many punitive measures were aimed at workers and were impacting families.
“Civic engagement demands us to be civically engaged,” she said.
So this wife, mother, teacher and first-time candidate is on the ballot for District 2’s House seat, now held by Heath.
She said she has had a lot of support from a lot of people, but highest praise came from her 17-year-old daughter, who compared her mom to Leslie Knope, the good-government, hyper-competent and conscientious deputy director of TV’s “Parks and Recreation.”
“It’s time for us to take our place,” Goddard said, sounding very Knope-ish. “If I don’t step up, who will?”
Want to turn the Bluegrass State a little more blue in the years ahead?
Support the Kentucky Initiative — kyinitiative.org — a grassroots PAC formed in 2017 in response to Kentucky’s Bevin administration and the election of Donald Trump. Its purpose is to identify and support progressive candidates specifically for Kentucky’s House of Representatives, a longtime Democratic stronghold recently flipped Republican.
The group was founded by Amy Guyton, a myofascial therapist, who said she is married to democratic values, not the Democratic Party. She was a political independent for 26 years before she changed her affiliation to vote in Kentucky’s closed 2016 Democratic primary.
Rather than promoting a party, the Kentucky Initiative promotes candidates who support workers’ rights and fair, living wages; public education; clean air and water; affordable, accessible health care; protection of privacy for personal health choices; and equal protection for all Kentuckians.
Another main goal of the organization is promoting accountability.
Guyton noted that 25 percent of Kentucky’s House districts ran unopposed Republicans in 2016, and that “a significant number” haven’t had to debate or go on record with their positions on important issues to voters.
No one can say Mayor Greg Fischer hasn’t been good for Louisville’s LGBTQ community. Compared to LGBTQ life in Kentucky outside the city, we have an embarrassment of riches: Under his leadership, Louisville is one of the only Southern cities to extend domestic partner benefits to city employees and ahead of the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. It has earned a perfect score from the Human Rights Commission for the past three years — outperforming peer cities. Then, there are the emotional benefits we reap from living in a city with an openly pro-fairness mayor.
These accomplishments came about through a close partnership with the Fairness Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group that works with cities to enact fairness, or non-discrimination, ordinances. Fairness makes political endorsements through C-FAIR, a political action committee.
This year, the endorsement went to Fischer, not his Democratic opponent, lawyer Ryan Fenwick, the first openly gay mayoral candidate.
Some in the LGBTQ community — including me — question whether Fischer deserved the endorsement, given his stands on intersectional issues — his support of the so-called anti-gang bills, his failure to declare Louisville as a sanctuary city and his focus on economic development while the city’s homeless population grows. They say Fenwick was a better choice because of his progressive platform.
More broadly, however, Fischer’s endorsement underscores how LGBTQ organizations — and all social justice organizations — can become entrenched in the establishment that they help, even inadvertently, to maintain the status quo.
But LGBTQ politics must be about all the things that affect all marginalized people.
“C-FAIR routinely declines to endorse exciting, inspiring and truly progressive candidates because it prefers to scratch backs, return political favors, and remain in the good graces of Louisville’s alleged political elite,” said Jaison Gardner, who is 89.3 WFPL “Strange Fruit” podcast co-host, and has served on the Fairness board. “Fairness has endorsed Mayor Fischer despite his anti-black, anti-sanctuary and anti-working class political positions, despite the opportunity to endorse a truly-progressive, openly gay man with justice-minded ideas.”
Nick Conder, who is vice chair of the local Democratic Socialists chapter and gay, pointed to the contradictions of social justice goals with city policies under Fischer’s administration.
“When 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, should Fairness really endorse a mayor who bulldozes homeless camps? When queer people are more likely to live in poverty than straight people, should Fairness really endorse a mayor who opposed even a $10 minimum wage? When LGBTQ people face unique health challenges and have a poor history with the police, should Fairness really endorse a mayor who is increasing funding for LMPD while social services continue to be underfunded? We need a mayor who will support all queer people, not just a privileged few,” he told LEO.
For the endorsement, C-FAIR’s interview team spoke with three Democratic candidates. None of the interview team members had previously endorsed, contributed to, worked for or volunteered for any of the candidates in the race. The team then made its recommendation to the C-FAIR board, which then made the endorsement.
Eric Graninger, C-FAIR board chair, said Fischer’s endorsement was based on factors including “his substantial accomplishments in office consistent with the goals of the Fairness Campaign. It also includes that we have endorsed Mayor Fischer in past races for mayor.”
Protecting the establishment?
If prior experience is a factor, then that is like comparing apples and oranges in a contest where the winning orange is required to have had access to mayoral power for eight years. It’s unsettling, not because Fenwick is an openly gay candidate — though a rich, white, straight, cis man earning the nomination over an equally fairness-centered gay man certainly twists the knife — but because Fischer simply does not have a better record on fairness.
Fenwick’s campaign manager Connor Allen, said C-FAIR could have not made an endorsement in order to avoid the decision.
“I believe they endorsed Fischer because they see Ryan as a candidate that can’t win. While I understand their logic, I think organizations that are social-justice oriented need to choose their endorsements based solely on candidates’ position on policies. When organizations like Fairness use things like money and name recognition as such a critical metric in choosing whom to endorse, they may protect their standing in establishment political circles, but they create a catch-22, where grassroots candidates with the courage to challenge the establishment face an even greater disadvantage in promoting their message.”
I asked Fischer how we can, as a city, do better for young LGBTQ folks who flock here from surrounding areas — particularly trans folks and homeless youth.
“That’s the reason why you see so many folks come to Louisville; they know we have a reputation for being welcoming and fair — I hate to put words like ‘progressive’ on stuff that has to do with human dignity and integrity — I think everybody should be treated the same, and LGBT folks know we celebrate everyone in our city.
“What we’ve done is use the HRC as a metric to see how we’re doing and if we can do more. We got a perfect for three years in a row from the HRC, and we didn’t start that way, and I know we outperformed our peer cities significantly in that way.”
He did not mention any ways Louisville could improve.
Here is how Fenwick described his LGBTQ-focused agenda. “There are many displaced LGBTQ people in Louisville from all over the state. I would like to use my platform to address the plight of why smaller and more rural communities are losing their LGBTQ residents. This is something those communities need to look at and think about why it’s happening.”
LGBTQ key issues, more than orientation
To be sure, Fischer is a strong LGBTQ ally, but his overall record must be considered.
Any social justice organization worth knowing about is devoted to intersectionality. The Fairness Campaign includes in its mission statement that “dismantling racism is central to our work,” and “all issues of oppression are linked and can only be addressed by working in coalition.” Also, it wants to work toward a “non-violent, grassroots organizing that empowers individuals and build a social justice movement that creates lasting change.”
Overlay that on several issues that position Fischer to the right of fairness:
— his support of the methane plant in West Louisville, which community residents defeated on the grounds that it was unfair to site an industrial plant in a low-income neighborhood.
— his failure to declare Louisville a sanctuary city, in the face of threats from the Trump administration.
— his support of police Chief Steve Conrad, whose department has failed to effectively cap the epidemics of homicides and heroin use, was helping federal immigration agents and has had officer-involved shootings that call into question its use-of-force policies, in addition to the overtime and Explorer Scout scandals.
— his support of House Bill 169, the so-called anti-gang bill, which other community civil rights activists and groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, feel will lead to the perpetuation of racial disparity in the criminal justice system.
Mayor and the anti-gang bill
Fischer told me that HB 169 “isn’t a headline,” although a Courier Journal story reported that community civil rights leaders felt blindsided by his support of this bill. Legislation that disproportionately targets people of color is one of the pillars of systemic oppression, yet C-FAIR endorsed a candidate who ignored the ACLU and other community leaders to support a bill that does just that — for what some have said is a show of force to make him more competitive against his Republican challenger, Councilwoman Angela Leet.
Fischer said that he understood concerns about HB 169, but he had worked to change the bill to minimize the damage to people of color. That included loosening the definition of who is in a gang and excluding minors not previously convicted of a felony. “The third thing that changed was to clarify how social media can be used as a characterization of someone being in a gang — it was much too broadly defined so we got that narrowed. The fourth thing was the original bill had a preponderance-of-evidence standard and we got that changed to beyond a reasonable doubt.
“So truly violent people do come off the street. And I’m aware of the issues of racial disproportionality in the justice system, and that’s a broad system we’ll continue to work on,” he said, adding that he supports Democratic state Rep. Attica Scott’s recommendation to vet every bill for its racial impact, not just its fiscal impact.
Murky areas of endorsement
A C-FAIR endorsement should mean — as people expect it to — that the candidate surpasses all others in their commitment to fairness. In the case of HB 169, a fairness candidate worth endorsing would reject a bill that bolsters mass incarceration and look toward options of restorative justice.
Graninger said C-FAIR weighed that: “The Fairness Campaign opposes HB 169 and has communicated that opposition to Mayor Fischer and to the public. In the past, C-FAIR has endorsed other candidates with whom we are not in 100 percent agreement.”
In 2010, when Fischer first ran for mayor, he gave what C-FAIR called a “strong interview,” but lost the endorsement to Councilman David Tandy, for his “enthusiastic vision” for Louisville, as well as his consideration of race, ethnicity and class as factors in that vision.
Apparently vision and community work is enough to earn the endorsement, despite Fenwick’s failure to do so — or, it was possible, at one point.
So, what happened?
It’s easy for progressives to become entrenched in the establishment, even when we don’t mean to do so. We feel grateful for the progress we’ve made and don’t want to upset that — a dilemma so common there are a million clichés to describe it. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s most recognizable LGBTQ advocate organization known particularly for its work toward marriage equality, has been criticized for being a great place for white, cis, gay men to rise to the top — but not so great for people of color, trans folks and women, including lesbians. White, gay men are always going to gain acceptance first, and are going to be the faces of the powerful LGBTQ organizations we count on.
We need to count on these leaders not to leave anyone behind, but they frequently do.
In practice, it becomes murky.
A mayor such as Fischer, supportive of equality, is going to work closely with the Fairness Campaign, and this is good because it’s where progress occurs. C-FAIR members are going to be community-centered because of their passion and vision — activism doesn’t occur in a vacuum. But the result is that a mayor is granted an endorsement precisely because of the work he’s done with the committee granting the endorsement, voted on by a committee that has certainly worked closely with that mayor.
According to Graninger, two C-FAIR board members recused themselves from the endorsement vote due to conflicts of interest.
Perhaps others should have, such as the member with an appointment from Fischer to the Metro Human Relations Commission, and another who co-hosted a kickoff fundraiser for Fischer in 2010. C-FAIR does not have a policy that causes board members to recuse themselves when they serve on a civic committee by mayoral appointment and council confirmation, but perhaps it should.
Organizations such as C-FAIR need to work with city government, but not be co-opted. How else can we describe this endorsement, when the candidate who has made such major, recent fairness missteps is favored over one who has made fairness for all the center of his campaign?
The Fairness Campaign and C-FAIR have a lot of influence in Kentucky, and should wield it responsibly. Politics have pulled so far to the right; it would be heartbreaking if the very advocates elected to speak for us drifted into lukewarm centrist values simply because it’s safe or comfortable.
The 2016 election should have been an easy win for Democrats, who put up an experienced politician against the idiot uncle your mother warns you not to be alone with — and they still lost. Part of why they lost is that people are tired of Democratic candidates ignoring progressive action in marginalized communities. We cannot expect votes from those communities simply because no one more progressive is on the ballot.
C-FAIR’s job is to report which candidate most embodies “fairness” values and with that endorsement, provide voters with a tool to vet candidates.
If that tool is broken, then it may be time to do what we’d do with any broken tool: have it mended, repurposed or set out by the curb. •
The evening sky lit up with fireworks during Thunder Over Louisville. Thousands of eyes watched stars and streams blast into existence in what has become the high-profile prelude to the Kentucky Derby.
But was that same amazing display hazardous to the health of Thunder fans?
The answer is as gray as the sky after a Zambelli’s display.
A spokesman for the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District, or APCD, said Thunder alone is not enough to move the needles on air quality readings, which have been steadily improving here since the ‘70s. “It’s not your grandfather’s air,” said Tom Nord, communications specialist for the APCD.
But others raise red flags about air pollution, especially during other holidays and festivals that employ fireworks. And still others say the science behind fireworks and pollution isn’t settled.
Meanwhile, the Fourth of July, with more fireworks displays than Thunder, approaches. And as Courier Journal reported last year, those pyrotechnics created smoke that lasted into the next day, with a sharp spike in the smallest particulate pollution starting at 9 p.m.
Particulate matter, also known as particle pollution is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets that get into the air. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, these particles, when inhaled, can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.
Gary Hoyle, acting chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the UofL, said many unanswered questions remain about fireworks’ impact on air quality. “The science is still out on that question,” he said.
Studies that address fireworks do show there are spikes and exceedances of PM standards, he said, but the findings also contain many unknowns: Where were the monitoring stations in relation to where the rockets were set off? At what levels were the explosions dispersed? Were people at risk elsewhere in the area or just at the scene of the show?
Overall, “it’s something that hasn’t been well studied,” Hoyle said.
That said, people should still take precautions.
“If I were going to one (a fireworks show), I would want to be upwind to minimize my exposure,” Hoyle said.
Fireworks can contain some nasty stuff. In fact, LifeScience, an online news site for science and technology, described some of the ingredients as “bizarre.” The color of those displays depends on the metals used: Aluminum, copper, lithium and strontium salts, barium and calcium could be in the mix.
According to hourly readings at the APCD’s monitoring stations from April 20 to 22 — the weekend of Thunder — which LEO obtained through an open records request, there was no 24-hour period where the average particulate matter reading exceeded 35 micrograms per cubic meter (mg/cm), the threshold for acceptable air quality.
“We didn’t see anything crazy this year,” Nord said. “There’s always the possibility something will show up, but we didn’t see any exceedances or spikes.”
There were a couple hours at some of the seven monitoring stations where an hourly reading peaked over 35 mg/cm, but the average reading for each of the three days remained in compliance.
Not so surprising, Nord said. Weather conditions in April tend to be cooler, unlike summer when warmer, dryer weather is ripe for pollution.
A combination of weather conditions and “sheer volume” of fireworks will make July 4 more problematic for air quality, according to Nord.
“Thunder is big,” he said, “but if you look at all of Kentuckiana, it’s an isolated event in one part of town, and we have found that because it’s not like summer, it happens and tends to disperse.”
Fireworks aside, the pollution readings from Thunder reflect a positive trend in local pollution levels.
There has been a positive particulate matter trend since 2010, Nord said, with one monthly exceedance reported since 2015. He also said most historic trends of pollution, except for ozone, have been sharply curtailed here.
He chalks up the improvement to several factors, including stricter emissions standards for cars and especially Louisville Gas & Electric’s decision to convert its Cane Run power plant to run on natural gas, ending six decades of coal-fired generation at the facility.
That alone, Nord said, “took tons of particulate matter out of the air.”
Heather Werheim, American Lung Association advocacy director for Kentucky and Tennessee, said that particle matter pollution has lessened over the past year. Louisville Metro (including Jefferson County, Elizabethtown and Madison, Indiana) ranked 21st on the ALA’s list of the top 25 most-polluted metropolitan statistical areas for particulate matter in its 2018 State of the Air report.
(Nord said the report isn’t as bad as it seems, noting that only the top 10-12 areas on the list are out of compliance. The rest are the worst of those areas in compliance.)
Meanwhile, ozone pollution remains a stubborn problem for the area — and much of the country — as increasingly hot weather from spring and fall ripens conditions for the pollutant.
Werheim lauded the work done to make Louisville less susceptible to air pollution. “We have a mayor who really has done a lot to help with that,” she said. “We have a lot of organizations and partners that help to improve the tree line in Louisville, to make sure we have cleaner air to breathe.”
She made it clear that ALA takes no position on Thunder, Fourth of July or celebrations or other festivals where fireworks displays are planned. “If someone called us to ask,” Werheim said, “we would probably tell them that’s not the right environment to be in with the health problems they face.”
And, again, the sirens are calling out to the city and state, this time promising to bring professional basketball to Louisville… with no taxpayer support. The lead siren said in a Courier Journal story “he doesn’t envision” public financing would be involved. But in the same story, the state Economic Development director seems to bend: “There should be private dollars at stake. They should bear the appropriate amount of the risk.” And, then, a reality check from Neil DeMause, whose “Field of Schemes” explains how franchise owners (ab)use public incentives: “Lots of cities and team owners say we’re not going to use public money even when they intend to use some kind of public money.”
No, mitch is miserable | Absurd
After Republican felonious coal baron Don Blankenship lost his U.S. Senate primary bid, Mitch McConnell’s people tweeted this meme, doctored from a Netflix series, “Narcos” poster.Blankenship had called McConnell “Cocaine Mitch” in a TV ad because cocaine was found on one of his wife’s father’s ships in 2014. A McConnell campaign spokesman told CJ that Mitch liked the joke. “If you don’t have a sense of humor these days you’re destined for a miserable existence,” he said. “Suffice it to say Senator McConnell’s sense of humor seems to be thriving.”
CJ scoop: priest bites dog | Absurd
CJ ran a story about a priest who was going “on retreat” for having what the paper termed “an inappropriate relationship” with… an adult! The reporter even called the priest’s home. This is news fit for print?
#theworstpackagingever | Absurd
Papa John’s is now selling its garlic sauce, packaged in what you might find at AutoZone. We are sure this will save Papa’s stock.
31 — Kentucky Shakespeare Festival’s “The Comedy of Errors”: Central Park, 8 p.m., May 31, June 1–3, June 5–10, July 11, 14, 17, 20, 22 features live performances of Shakespeare’s plays for free, kyshakespeare.com.
2 — Kentucky Shakespeare Festival’s “Late Night Shakes”: Central Park, 10:30 p.m., June 2, 16, 30, August 4, features live performances of Shakespeare’s plays for free, kyshakespeare.com.
2 — 13th Annual Fest of Ale: New Albany Riverfront Amphitheater, 201 E. Water St., New Albany, Ind., 3–7 p.m., Benefiting Crusade for Children, offers over 250 craft and import ales for sample, and features live music from PMA Sound and other guests. http://kegliquors.com/fest_press_release.html
1–2 — Louisville’s Greek Festival: Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, Fri. 4–11 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., celebrates Greek culture with music, arts and crafts, food and more, louisvillegreekfest.com.
2–3 — Butchertown Art Fair: Butchertown (800 and 900 blocks of E. Washington St.), Sat. 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m., features art, live music and plenty of food and drink, butchertown.wix.com/artfair.
2–3 — Colonial Trade Faire: Oldham County History Center: 106 N. Second St., LaGrange, Kentucky. Sat.–Sun., 10 a.m.–4 p.m., featuring a celebration of 18th century Kentucky culture, oldhamcountyhistoricalsociety.org.
9–10 — 12th Annual Art on the Parish Green Festival: 1015 E. Main St. New Albany, Indiana, Sat. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Sun., 11:30 a.m.–5 p.m., featuring over 90 juried fine arts and crafts vendors, a food court, a beer/wine garden, live music, artontheparishgreen.org.
14 — Kentucky Shakespeare Festival’s “Henry IV, Part One”: Central Park, 8 p.m., June 14–17, June 19–24, July 10, 13, 15, 19, 21, features live performances of Shakespeare’s plays for free, kyshakespeare.com.
15–16 — Lyndon Summer Festival: Robsion Park (behind the Lyndon Post Office), Fri. 4–10 p.m., Sat. noon–10:00 p.m., features rides, fireworks, arts and crafts, model train display, live music and more, cityoflyndon.org.
15–16 — Kentuckiana Pride Festival: Big Four Lawn at Waterfront Park (401 River Road), Fri. 7 p.m.–11 p.m., Sat. 12 p.m.–11 p.m., features a parade, vendor marketplace, live music and more, kypride.com.
28 — Kentucky Shakespeare Festival’s “Othello”: Central Park, 8 p.m., June 28–July 1, July 3–8, July 12, 14, 18, 21, features live performances of Shakespeare’s plays for free, kyshakespeare.com.
3–4 — Crescent Hill Fourth of July Festival: Peterson–Dumesnil House, 301 S. Peterson Ave., Tue. 4–10 p.m., Wed., 10 a.m.–10 p.m., pet show, live entertainment, juried artists’ booths, fireworks and more, http://www.crescenthill.us/fourth-of-july.
13–15 — Forecastle Fest: Waterfront Park, 129 River Road, annual music, art, activist festival, featuring more than 65 bands, artists and organizations, forecastlefest.com.
20–21 — 17th Annual Lebowski Fest: Executive Lawn/Executive Strike & Spare, 911 Phillips Lane, Fri. & Sat. 8 p.m., featuring live music by Murder by Death and Howell Dandy, bowling and a film screening, lebowskifest.com.
20–21 — Blues, Brews, & Barbecue Festival: Louisville Water Tower, with live music, barbecue, craft beer and more, louisvillebluesandbbqfestival.com
21–22 — 29th Annual Brightside & Coca–Cola Volleyball Classic: Seneca Park and Baxter Jack’s, annual volleyball tournament, louisvilleky.gov/brightside.
25 — Kentucky Shakespeare Festival’s “Romeo & Juliet”: Central Park, 8 p.m., July 25–28, features live performances of Shakespeare’s plays for free, kyshakespeare.com.
29 — Kentucky Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: Central Park, 8 p.m., July 29, 31, features live performances of Shakespeare’s plays for free, kyshakespeare.com.
1 — Kentucky Shakespeare Festival’s “Tempest”: Central Park, 8 p.m., August 1–4, 5, features live performances of Shakespeare’s plays for free, kyshakespeare.com.
10–11 — St. Joseph’s 169th Annual Picnic for the Kids: St. Joseph’s Children Home, 2823 Frankfort Ave., Fri. 5–10 p.m., Sat., noon–midnight, more than 60 booths with games, food, raffles and more, http://sjkids.org/picnic/.
16–26 — Kentucky State Fair: Kentucky Expo Center, 937 Phillips Lane, featuring exhibits, concerts, agricultural and commercial displays and more, kystatefair.org.
23–25 — Sellersburg Celebrates: Sellersburg, Ind., Silver Creek Township Park, with food and specialty booths, balloon glow, live music and more. Sellersburgcelebrates.org
24 — Old Lou Brew Craft Beer Festival: Central Park, 1240 S. Fourth St., featuring craft beer from local breweries, food trucks and live music from Bridge 19, http://oldloubrew.com/
31–September 3 — WorldFest: The Belvedere at Fifth and Main Streets, Fri.–Sun. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Mon., 11 a.m.–8 p.m., featuring world food, live music, dance, culture and education.
1–2 — Rock the Water Tower: Louisville Water Tower Park, 3005 River Road, featuring live music, local beers and bourbon, barbecue, children’s activities and more, rockthewatertower.com.
2–5 — Jasper Strassenfest: Jasper, Ind., German heritage fest with food, music, carnival rides, arts and crafts, and more, jasperstrassenfest.org.
14–16 — Jeffersontown Gaslight Festival: Gaslight Square, Taylorsville Road/Watterson Trail, Fri. 7–10 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. noon–6 p.m., with arts and crafts, parade, balloon glow (dusk Friday), music and more, jtownchamber.com.
22–24 — Louisville Irish Fest: Bellarmine University, Times To Be Decided, celebrates Irish heritage with music, cultural exhibits, vendors, food and more, louisvilleirishfest.com.
22–23 — Bourbon & Beyond: Champions Park, bourbon, food from local restaurants and chefs and live music from John Mayer, Lenny Kravitz and more. bourbonandbeyond.com
Damon McMahon admits his project Amen Dunes comes from a trance state, unsurprising for anyone who has followed his incandescent art-pop for the past decade. His bucolic freak-folk debut, DIA, was recorded in solitude in a Catskills, New York cabin. The follow-up, Through Donkey Jaw, retained all the psychedelic flourishes, vision-quest imagery and found-cassette production, but with tighter hooks and a release on the highly-curated Sacred Bones label. His latest, the thematic Freedom, is a natural outcome of Amen Dunes’ trajectory toward a bigger — and more accessible — sound. No qualifiers like “lo-fi” or “psychedelic” or “bedroom recording” are needed here — Freedom is an incredible piece of rock and roll music. Mercurial and confident like Lou Reed’s New York City street records during his creative peak, but without Lou’s bullshit, the New York-based McMahon has reinvented himself with each record, drawing inspiration from a deep well. It’s one of the most compelling and bold albums of 2018.
LEO: Freedom seems such a departure sonically from the murkier, more lo-fi work before 2014’s Love. Was it a conscious choice to move in a more accessible direction or is that how Freedom turned out? Damon McMahon: It was very conscious. I only did those records lo-fi because those are the resources I had. I didn’t have a budget to go to a studio, so I was doing it all on my own and didn’t know how to do it any better. Even in the DIA days, I wish I had Abbey Road, ya know? I never intended to be murky or put out obscure records. I think a lot of people thought that [sound] was intentional, but it never was.
Kinda like Ariel Pink, who’s making the records now that he wanted to make — and not sound like a warped cassette. That’s exactly right, man. I just did the first records in basements and whatever random places.
One line that really stood out to me was in ‘Blue Rose’ when you sing, ‘We play religious music / Don’t think you’d understand, man.’ I’ve always picked up a sense of spirituality in the music, intentionally or not, especially on DIA with that more introverted feel. Does spirituality inform Amen Dunes or were you speaking more in character or like an abstraction? That line was actually… kind of an unspiritual line. There’s my subjective and objective self — there’s this character, and then there’s this non-human element that makes the music and calls the shots. That line was a punk line, like calling people out in an unconventional way. Instead of saying, like, I’m a badass or something, it was ‘I make religious music.’ It’s almost like a hip-hop thing, that sort of mentality. In some ways, it was making fun of my whole thing, making fun of the fact it was a spiritual thing in a way. That being said, this ‘Blue Rose’ character, who is this sort of cocky renegade cowboy, the story of this guy — me, I guess, it’s sorta autobiographical — uses music as weapon. My mode of separation from my peers is making fun of spiritual music. But then, Amen Dunes is completely spiritual music. The only reason I get any melodies or any of these songs is because they’re given to me by some other kind of energy. I wasn’t using that line to say that though. I was using it as a terrestrial call out.
Thinking about speaking through these different voices who peel back these, um, layers or totems of masculinity, would you consider Freedom a concept record like a Sgt. Pepper’s or The Wall in the sense that there are characters? One-hundred percent. Freedom is literally a traditional concept record. So, I am not conscious when I’m writing my own music. This was made over the course of two years and the direction and themes of the songs and subject matter were a little bit of my own self exploration, but it really was divine direction, if I can be bold. I have my own life separate of my music, my own introspection, and whatever was happening in my real life directed these songs. So, my objective was like ‘I wanna write songs about masculinity and my Irish and Jewish side, or the kids I knew who passed away or went to jail, or I wanna write about growing up or New York or whatever.’ But my practice outside of music ouija boarded those subjects into a concept album, which is about letting go of all those ideas for songs. I was setting about a very conscious way of talking about myself, and whatever was directing the music was like, ‘Dude, you’re not that important. There’s a much bigger theme, which is relinquishing all those selves.’ One day, I woke, and the album was done and called Freedom, which I only called it that to be a dick. It was a cool album after Love. It was funny, it was punk. But, my higher self made that title perfectly logical, because it’s about letting go of these ideas of yourself.
I was gonna ask you about album titles, these broader thematic arcs — Love, Freedom — but it sounds like nothing is really meant to be anything. You’re letting things come to you as a conduit for whatever creative force is around you. Yeah exactly. It’s like, how… I don’t wanna get too weird with you here…
No, get weird! [Laughs] OK, so there’s a million things happening all at once, in any single moment. A part of me was consciously constructing these songs and in a cheeky way, calling it Love and Freedom, but there was a second self leaving this very honest depiction of my own spiritual growth, and the Love album was the first about practicing devotional love. I don’t go to church, but [doing that] in my own way. And freedom is the objective or the goal of practice of devotional love. •
So I mean this in the most loving way, but…[laughs]…I dig a lot of classic rock and heartland rock, something bands like The War on Drugs have really honed in on lately, and I detect hints of that in Freedom, which I love. It makes me curious how your life in New York informs something that doesn’t quite sound like the city. Totally. I mean, I was also thinking about Gucci Mane and Young Thug making this record too — those attitudes — and it has some electronic music, too. But also, it’s my attempt at making pop music. A big factor in making this album was mainstream music. Those are my influences. I love that shit, any true head loves obscure and mainstream music equally. I believe that. And anybody who fucking says they don’t like The Beatles should stop listening to music. They should be arrested, actually.
I’ve almost gotten in fights with dudes who say The Beatles are overrated. It’s the dumbest take. Absolutely. So I wanted to access a part of me that I never had before. Growing up I loved pop music. My dad turned me on to The Band, Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead. So I went in wanting to make my version of pop-rock music, with pop as Michael Jackson and INXS and rock as Tom Petty, Oasis, Nirvana, some Massive Attack. Mainstream is mainstream often for a reason, because when it’s good it’s really fucking good. As I get older, I become more interested in what’s really good than what’s really cool.
[laughs] That is a mantra! Speaking of pop, last time you played town, you supported Godspeed You Black Emperor, and this time Fleet Foxes, and to my mind is a pretty big gulf. Yeah, I’ve known Robin for a long time and he asked me to open. I liked the idea of playing, you know, to more people. I don’t wanna just keep my music to WFMU people. I appreciated it that, but my music is pop rock and I want to get people’s attention. I want people to be able to enjoy because they could if they had the chance.