Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Band returns fee, gives up return gig after allowing spectator to sing anti-gay lyric at Friday night event

Shades of Grass early in their performance
The band at Friday's Midsummer Nights in Midway event allowed a spectator to sing an anti-gay song, prompting protests from the crowd. Now Shades of Grass has returned the $500 fee it received from Midway Renaissance and asked that the money go toward an LGBT cause, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift told the Messenger Wednesday afternoon.

“We don’t condone any kind of speech like that in Midway, whether it’s racist or sexist or anti-gay or anti-religious or anti-Christian or anti-Muslim or anti-Jewish,” Vandegrift said. “We don’t want any of that happening, especially in a public performance like that.” The mayor said he and Renaissance would write a letter of apology.

Vandegrift said he asked for a meeting with Renaissance members to discuss the matter. The meeting was held Tuesday night at City Hall, and included Sara Hicks, a city council member who is on the Renaissance board and is the immediate past president of the group. The gathering was not subject to the state open-meetings law, and Vandegrift said he saw no need to involve the public.

Midsummer Nights in Midway will repeat July 22 and Aug. 19. Shades of Grass was scheduled to play at the latter event but won't now. “I think the band recognized the error of their ways and decided it wouldn’t be prudent to play again,” Vandegrift said.

Renaissance President Jo Blease said she didn't witness the episode and the band had gone home "by the time we figured out what was going on," so she called band leader Steve Norman later "and he was very apologetic. . . . He immediately said he did not want any bad reflection on Midway or the event." Later, "His wife called and said they were going to return the fee."

Blease said the song, "Come on Down to the Farm," has been played at bluegrass music events for some time, so when the man began to sing, the band apparently recognized the tune, but erred by not stopping when they heard the lyrics. She said of Norman, "He's done everything he can to try to make it right and I hope it doesn't continue to reflect badly on that band."

Blease said the band played for four hours, one more than scheduled, without a break, and for less than their normal fee, "because they believe in Midway and the whole event. . . . I feel horrible that people were there and made to feel unwelcome and uncomfortable."

Norman did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday night. 

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