We Need To Talk About Kevin

There once was a scorpion that needed passage from one side of the river to the other. A passing turtle was asked to be his ride. The turtle, wary of the scorpion’s sting declined to help for fear that a simple strike from the creature would end his life. The scorpion argued that doing so would drown the both of them and so the turtle agreed. Reaching midstream, the scorpion strikes out with his barbed tail and stings the unassuming turtle. To which the turtle asks, “why have you doomed us both?” The scorpion explains that it is his nature.

Like a scorpion, Kevin Lyman has something in his nature—some hair-trigger impulse to doom our scene to a lack of consequence and false hope. In my last column on Alternative Press, I praised his planned initiatives and stood behind him. I come before you now midstream, stung with the revoked promise of moral leadership in our fight against abuse within our scene. By allowing Front Porch Step to take the stage Wednesday in Nashville, Kevin Lyman single-handedly invalidated his former statements and endangered the very scene he helped build.

Early this year, a number of damning allegations towards Jake McElfresh came to light online. These allegations were backed up by numerous photos, stories, and publicized conversations that solidified one thing; Front Porch Step does not belong in our scene. In response to these allegations, Lyman was brought to task—asked repeatedly to remove Front Porch Step from his tour. Several of his tweets confirmed that this was happening.

Five months later, images began to circle around the web of the Acoustic Basement stage set times. These included an unannounced set from Front Porch Step, which was confirmed hours later by reporter Chris Hampton as he captured images of McElfresh on the Warped premises talking to Kevin Lyman himself. Chris, a member of tour sponsor Journeys’ social media team, was later banned from returning to the tour—not for a stated reason, but most likely for his updates on the ground that sent the alternative music Twittersphere into complete hysteria.

The sentiment was the same almost unanimously: Front Porch Step shouldn’t be there and an answer to Kevin Lyman’s decision to allow an alleged sexual predator into his grounds needed to be made. No such satisfaction was given and despite the protest and some sever weather conditions, Front Porch Step was allowed a platform in the Acoustic Basement tent early that afternoon. Video of the set taken by Hampton showed a clearly unremorseful McElfresh. What’s more, he and the individual introducing him made note that the performer himself was a victim. These comments were met ungracefully by both booing and jeering from those with an invested interest in our scene as well as cheers from his fans who clearly have no regard in the well being of their fellow concert attendees. Handguns guitarist Brandon Pagano reported from the scene, explaining that those interrupting the set were removed from the area. There has been no word on whether or not the several security guards assigned to McElfresh’s detail were responsible for those removals.

From first discovery early that morning throughout the remainder of the day, Kevin Lyman remained quiet on his decision to allow Front Porch Step to play. This made statements by musicians that much louder. The Wonder Years vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell went so far as to cancel his Aaron West set at the Acoustic Basement tent, earning him waves of respect from his fans and peers.

The official statement, which was delivered exclusively to AltPress after the gates closed that night, was short. Lyman claimed that he met with Jake McElfresh’s counselor who conveyed that letting him play the tour was good for his therapy. This I don’t understand. Why the option was even considered by the tour-boss is a complete mystery to me. I believe that anyone is entitled to therapy; but for McElfresh, the place for that therapy is not here. Not this scene and not this tour. There was clearly has no regard for anyone on the grounds that have suffered at the hands of men like this one. It was a misguided sense of responsibility that allowed an alleged predator back into his hunting ground, a tour full of underage girls that Kevin Lyman is directly responsible for.

Front Porch Step should have never been allowed to play. He should never have been given a platform to speak. His “statement” delivered in April, 3 months after completely disappearing from the Internet (and penned with plenty of time to earnestly think about his behavior), was an unapologetic, victim blaming, ego-laden essay of complete garbage. Giving him the chance to say things like “The difference between you and me is that I know who I am, and I fucking am very proud of that.” on stage is revolting to me. This didn’t seem to matter much to Lyman though. “If he was a legitimate danger to anyone, he simply would not have been here,” he said in his statement. Let me make something perfectly clear: Kevin Lyman is not making the patrons at Warped Tour safe by allowing men like McElfresh into the tour and although this particular individual was never charged for his misconduct, the danger he presents is very real.

In addition to the discomfort patrons must have felt knowing McElfresh was there, I feel terribly for the musicians and workers of the Vans Warped Tour that had absolutely no say in the matter of letting him in. [1] Fans called for more to follow in Soupy’s footsteps Wednesday by canceling their sets. That is something I would completely support if a band decidedly chose to do so, but in calling for it, we are asking hardworking musicians to throw away everything the’ve worked towards to get on the tour—which makes things difficult. American Opera said it best that afternoon, “There are 80 bands that you should see today. And only 1 that you shouldn’t.” That sadly didn’t stop the tent from filling.

We can NOT give those who harm us a platform. Such a place should be reserved only for those with the courage to speak out against and educate our community on the signs of abuse and dangers of the men that prey on the unassuming. No more victim shaming either. Victims of sexual assault are often scared to pursue legal action because of the time, money, and pain it causes them to do so. Their names are dragged through mud and over coals by fans of celebrated and esteemed members of our musical community at the slightest mention of an attack. We can not blame them for keeping the law out of it. We can’t blame what is happening on the poor strength and ignorance of women. Victims need our support and we need to do everything in our power to barricade predators from our scene. Otherwise, this sort of thing is going to happen again and again and again. Like Danny Samet posts every night on tour with Say Anything, “Music should be a safe community. One strike, you’re out. Do your part.”

We’ve been promised that Jake McElfresh will not be appearing at any more Warped appearances, but the fact remains that he did appear at one. A man that promised us recognizable change gave him a platform. We were let down by a man I hoped would lead the charge for a safer scene, but that doesn’t mean the fight is over. This is our community and if Kevin Lyman isn’t going to create positive change, you can be damn sure we are going to do it ourselves.

If you’d like to be part of a conversation about positive change in our scene, feel free to mention me on Twitter.

Further Reading:

Acoustic Basement organizer Brian Marquis, for instance, “Had no hand” in the events that took place.