Sorry, Stevie Nicks, you’re not welcome. Hey, Joan Jett, kick rocks. Patti Smith, hit the road. Debbie Harry, Ann Wilson, Chrissie Hynde, Pat Benatar, Lita Ford, Grace Slick — all y’all can scram.
There will be no performing in this establishment by any of you. After all, our customers have decided, women “can’t sing rock.”
A British pub/music club’s apparent decision to institute a policy that bans female-fronted bands from performing at the venue as a result of patrons’ complaints has sparked controversy and drawn condemnation — even in Utah.
Paula Rees, manager of Middlesbrough pub Doctor Browns, told The Northern Echo last week that the rule isn’t sexist, just practical business: “We had female singers on in the past and customers just didn’t like it,” Rees said. “It’s nothing to do with me, it’s the pub’s regulars who come in every week — they won’t come in if there’s a female singer. … We can’t risk nobody coming in.”
That explanation doesn’t sit well with Eugenie Hero Jaffe, host of KRCL’s popular midday “Women Who Rock” segment.
“First of all, their customers are a--holes — that’s on the record!” Jaffe told The Salt Lake Tribune. “I’m shocked. What a bunch of misogynists.”
Widespread backlash apparently caused the pub to backtrack in subsequent days, culminating in a Facebook post that claimed there was no official ban in place, and that only one group had been prohibited from playing.
Club owners and music promoters in and around the Salt Lake valley insist bands and fans need not fear any similar controversy happening locally.
Darin Piccoli and Chris Mautz, who formed First Tracks Entertainment in 2008 and are co-owners of Salt Lake City music club The State Room, part-owners of Park City venue O.P. Rockwell and production partners for the Live at the Eccles series at the Eccles Theater, both emailed that they’d never even encountered such a circumstance in Utah, with Piccoli noting “That is crazy!” and Mautz adding an indignant “Jeez. …”
Meanwhile, Will Sartain and Lance Saunders — co-owners of SLC-based concert promotion company Sartain & Saunders, which has supplied shows to such venues as Urban Lounge, Kilby Court, The Depot, The Complex, Metro Music Hall and In The Venue since 2003 — also emailed to express similar befuddlement.
“Never heard of anything like this,” Saunders wrote. “It’s ridiculous and WRONG.”
Artists themselves certainly agree with that latter sentence.
A pair of modern-era female rockers took to Twitter to share their contempt for the story.
Lzzy Hale, singer and guitarist for the band Halestorm, which headlined a show at The Complex with Lita Ford during their last trip to Utah in October 2016, took issue with the pub’s booking criteria: “It shouldn’t be about gender. It’s about TALENT. There are [expletive] female singers and [expletive] male singers,There are Amazing female singers and Amazing male singers. I think they need to run their establishment differently.”
Dorothy Martin, frontwoman of the band Dorothy, which was part of that Halestorm/Lita Ford bill and which visited Urban Lounge this past January and will be performing at Metro Music Hall this coming Feb. 28, was a bit more pointed: “DEAD ok. But seriously. Let’s Stop letting insecure men w tiny [genitalia] make ANY decisions in our arena. K? Good.”
Talia Keys, a Salt Lake City native who performs a frenetic hybrid of soul, funk and rock, initially expressed outrage upon hearing the story: “ ‘[Expletive] that,’ that’s what first comes to mind. That’s crazy to me.”
Upon further reflection, she conceded that she perhaps is not that surprised after all.
While she said she’s lost gigs for being LGBTQ and for being “too political,” she said she has yet to be banned simply for being female, though she’s experienced plenty of more subtle sexism.
“I’ve been told I need to write love songs, or play softer,” Keys said with an audible sigh. “I still get some comments. They say, ’It’s crazy you were so good, ’cause you’re a woman.’ Of course I’m good — I practice a lot.”
“Women Who Rock” is not just a radio program, but also a recurring concert series that Keys played a part in establishing.
Proud as she is of its success — several sold-out or near-sellout shows have been hosted at The State Room — she’s equally chagrined by a small-but-vocal group of detractors who don’t seem to understand its point.
“We exposed new female-fronted bands to a ton of new fans. And we got a lot of hate for it: ‘Why are you excluding men?’ Are you kidding? Facepalm, you know?” she said. “This isn’t to exclude men, it’s to give knowledge that there are a lot of good female-fronted bands here.”
Jaffe said that after some initial reservations about her show’s concept, she’s been pleasantly surprised to encounter more progressive listeners than she expected — and certainly more progressive listeners than those who frequent Doctor Browns.
“I started ‘Women Who Rock’ and said, ‘I don’t know if people are gonna like this.’ Our last radiothon, I came to the conclusion, ‘I guess people like this, after all,’ ” she said with a laugh. “The fear I had initially was totally disproved. There are so many guys I see now wearing ‘Women Who Rock’ shirts, I said to myself, ‘What was I thinking?’ ”
Keys expressed hope that Britain’s musicgoing public similarly let Doctor Browns know how they feel: “People need to give this bar so much s---, and let there be an onslaught to let them know this isn’t OK.”
Beyond that, she added, the pub really is overcomplicating things.
“Is it good music? Is it entertaining? Yes? Then that should be it,” Keys said. “Nothing else should matter.”