Texas country-punk band Vandoliers are standing in solidarity with drag performers and the LGBTQ+ community. On Thursday night, the group performed their set at the Shed in Maryville, Tennessee, with all six of its members wearing dresses in protest of the state’s newly enacted law on public drag performance.
“Fuck a drag bill,” they wrote in an Instagram post. “Gonna auction off the dresses we wore onstage in Tennessee tonight and donate the money to a couple of LGBTQ charities in this state.”
Suffice it to say, the heavily tattooed, impressively hairy group may not be making a Drag Race runway debut anytime soon (or maybe they will, who knows!), but the image of them in their show wear suggests they came ready to party and kick a little homophobic ass.
“As a band our core mission has always been to be a positive force of energy,” singer Joshua Fleming tells Rolling Stone. “What is happening in Tennessee is a blatant attack on a marginalized class, and we wanted to show all of our friends and fans in the LGBTQIA+ community our unwavering love and support. We see you, we stand with you, and we’ll fight alongside you. Vandoliers is for everyone. Forever.”
Tennessee’s new bill, adopted by the legislature and signed by Governor Bill Lee this week, aims to re-classify some drag performance as “adult cabaret” that violates obscenity laws by being “harmful to minors.” Performances will supposedly be restricted in public spaces or in places where children might see the act, though just how much remains unclear. Opponents of the bill are promising legal action.
The law goes into effect on July 1, shortly after Nashville Pride takes over the Bicentennial Mall in downtown. Some legal professionals have questioned whether it can actually be enforced or if it’s just designed to scare people. Artists including Kacey Musgraves and Cassadee Pope have voiced their opposition to the law, and a group of Tennessee businesses that includes Sony Music Nashville, Red Light Management, and Warner Music Nashville all signed a letter urging Lee not to sign the bill.
Tennessee also has a group of related bills moving through the legislature that are aimed at the trans community, specifically with regard to gender-affirming healthcare for youth, participation in school sports, and self-identification on official IDs.
Vandoliers recently returned from the Outlaw Country Cruise 7, where they performed at sea alongside Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, the Mavericks, and fellow Texan Joshua Ray Walker, with whom they’re currently on tour. Vandoliers released their self-titled fourth album in August 2022, with standouts like the blistering “Bless Your Drunken Heart” and the Covid-era anthem “Every Saturday Night.” They also dropped a spiky cover of the Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” in 2022. Vandoliers and Joshua Ray Walker will play Atlanta’s Center Stage on Friday night and New York’s Brooklyn Made on March 8.