Since President Barack Obama voiced his support for gay marriage (and since numerous pastors around the country have proposed beating, fencing in, or killing homosexuals outright), LGBT issues have been in the national headlines more frequently than ever before. With so many eager commentators and “talking heads” running around television, newspapers, and the internet, the simple act of raising awareness of individual LGBT groups and communities has become an afterthought. Indeed, LGBT activists around the country have found that educating smaller groups of people about the role of sexuality in their community is more effective than massive national campaigns or political fundraisers.
Des Moines LGBT-rights activist Dan Wren is not interested in raising massive amounts of money or getting on television. He just wants to reach out to his friends and neighbors with one of the most unifying and equalizing human institutions: music. On June 8, Wren’s benefit concert, This Music Is So Gay, will feature four central Iowa bands at Des Moines venue House of Bricks. “The main reason I did this was to highlight the [LGBT] community and show some gay pride in the music community,” Wren said. “But I thought it would be nice if we could make some money for a good cause too.”
The good cause he is referring to is One Iowa, a nonprofit that aims to defend marriage equality in the state. It also helped members of the Des Moines Pride Center’s support groups find a new place to hold their weekly meetings, he said, after the Pride Center closed its doors earlier this year.
Wren said he has experienced the benefits of an LGBT support group first-hand. “My main involvement with the LGBT community has, for the most part, been with the transgender support group Transformations Iowa, he said. “I’ve done a lot of crossdressing in the past and was coming to terms with that, and Transformations helped me.”
This Music Is So Gay’s lineup features four Iowa bands that have LGBT and LGBT rights-supporting members: electronic/dance solo act the Olsen Twinns, all-female group VaJ of Courage, soulful piano rockers Shady At Best, and electronic/hip-hop musician Vill.
Mickey Davis of the Olsen Twinns, who spends time away from the central Iowa scene while studying at Macalester College in St. Paul, said the benefit will give him an opportunity to do something for the central Iowa LGBT movement. “I go to school in Minneapolis, so only being home for the summer, it’s hard to get more involved in a community that seems to truly be finding its voice right now,” Davis said. “This event gives me an opportunity [to show my support].”
Richard Spierenburg of Shady At Best (who also, incidentally, books for House of Bricks through his agency For The Musicians) said he was very glad to be included on the bill since the group’s music is charged with social commentary. “We’ve played with other bands involved in the LGBT Community,” Spierenburg said. “Part of what Shady At Best is about is social equality.”
This concert is also the first one Shady At Best will have played since October, and Spierenburg said he is most excited to get back to live performances by playing at the House of Bricks for a good cause. “It’s gonna be great to get back on the scene starting at venues in Des Moines and Ames,” Spierenburg said. “We’re pumped to start playing live again starting with this great event! This show will be more acoustic based starting out since our drummer is still new to the music. I’ve found this works well in The HOB for our sound.”
Davis also has some surprises in store for the show. “But I’m not telling.”
Despite This Music Is So Gay’s lineup of popular Central Iowa acts, Wren said he is not going to set his financial goals too high, since the main purpose of the event is to raise awareness, not money. “My financial goals?” he asked. “To break even? It’d be nice to make some money for One Iowa.”
Davis and Spierenburg didn’t sound too worried.
“It’s going to be a wonderfully supportive night with a bunch of extremely talented musicians playing for a great cause,” Davis said. “There aren’t many better things in the world.”
Front-page image from This Music Is So Gay flyer