Queering the Music Industry: A Night at Barnard with Pwr Bttm, Suzy Exposito, Frankie Hutchinson and Dai Burger

By Nicolette Natale, Contributing Writer

On March 24, 2017, Pwr Bttm, Suzy Exposito, Frankie Hutchinson aand Dai Burger gathered in the James Room of Barnard college to discuss queerness in the music industry.

Pwr Bttm, a queer punk band featuring Ben Hawkins (they) and Liv Bruce (she or they), may be gaining some of the most attention as a queer punk band right now, but they are one of many queer punk bands to take the spotlight. In fact, Bruce admitted that she thought that her band was very unique and different until she went to Seattle one summer and encountered numerous queer bands. Scrolling through Pwr Bttm’s twitter or being in their presence, it is very clear they do not want to erase the presence of other queer identified bands but rather bring these musicians voices and presence to the forefront of conversations.

But how easily accessible is queer music? Bruce remembers she didn’t know any queer bands when she was in college, and that made making Pwr Bttm explicitly queer important. Of course, she pointed out, in the age of the internet and Bandcamp it is increasingly easier to access and find this niche genre of music.

But this question of accessibility and space, both virtual and physical, for queer folks was a recurring one throughout the night. Suzy Exposito, a Rolling Stone magazine staff writer and former performer in the band Shady Hawkins, commented on how predominantly gay spaces tend to be bars, which can exclude a lot of people who have had drinking problems in the past or feel uncomfortable around alcohol. Besides that, there is sometimes the assumption that people who go to these bars are eager to engage in sex. If someone is more on the asexual spectrum, there is sometimes the unspoken question of, in Exposito’s words, “why are you here?” Exposito’s insight left the audience with the question of what are spaces queer folk can access at all ages and meet other queer folk, especially if they don’t want to have to sex or drink alcohol?

This question, obviously, is too big for one person to answer and could not be answered in a two hour panel. But, Bruce did offer what she thinks could be a unifying approach for the LGBTQ community based on personal experience. Prior to introducing her idea, Bruce acknowledged asexual folks identities are respected and valued and this may not be for them, or it may not even be for queer folk who are uncomfortable with the history of the hypersexualization of the queer community. She then went on to discuss how in her personal life, casual sex has been a way of meeting and connecting with other queer folk, even after one night stands. She recollected after the election night, being upset and wanting physical affection so she found someone on a dating app to hook-up and be with that night. Even though there is no romantic flare, the two still check-in on each other after upsetting political events take place, and she finds this to be a very comforting relationship. If people are capable of having sex and then being normal afterwards, Bruce thinks comforting friendships can emerge, and this could be an easy way to meet and befriend queer folks.

The panel did not end with concrete conclusions about how to queer the music industry or spaces in general, but it opened up a conversation for moving forward. This panel was a gathering of queer folks involved in the music industry drawing upon their own experiences of exclusion to think critically together about how more space can be carved out for queer folk and how queer folks can know about the existence of such spaces. May we all move forward and think about how to make spaces more accessible for and in the queer community, especially for asexual and younger folks.

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