Yo La Tengo Dress in Drag at Nashville Show to Protest Tennessee’s Law Restricting Drag Performances

Yo La Tengo made a statement during the second half of their show at The Basement East in Nashville, Tennessee on Monday night (March 14). In a rebuke of Gov. Bill Lee’s recent signing of a bill that puts restrictions on drag performances in public, the New Jersey trio’s male members, singer/ guitarist Ira Kaplan and bassist James McNew, came out after a short intermission dressed in women’s clothing.


According to the Tennessean, Kaplan wore makeup, a red dress and along black wig, while McNew donned a shawl and a sun hat, while drummer Georgia Hubley kept her same outfit. The paper said the band did not mention Lee or the controversial new law, which prohibits, “adult-oriented” entertainment, including “male and female impersonators” on public property, as well as limiting such entertainment to age-restricted venues.

And while they didn’t specifically explain their action, in a statement (via Pitchfork), said, “What we did last night coldn’t have been clearer, and requires no further comment.”

The law, which takes effect on April 1, is among a flurry of new laws being passed by conservative politicians across the country taking aim at the LGBTQ community, including a number that seek to deny gender-affirming health care to transgender children; Lee also signed a total ban on such care the same day as the drag bill. According to the Human Rights Campaign, Tennessee has passed more anti-LGBTQ laws than any other state in the U.S.

Cyndi Lauper and The B-52s also recently joined the rising chorus of voices speaking out against new laws being passed by Republicans targeting the trans community and seeking to ban drag artists.

“Equality for everybody, or nobody’s really equal,” longtime LGBTQ alley Lauper told ITK according to The Hill. “This is how Hitler started. just weeding everybody out.” Hitler’s Nazi Germany tagged gay people as “enemies of the state” and many were jailed or killed in concentration camps and Lauper said it’s imperative that we keep “fighting for civil rights.”

In a sharply worded statement issued on Wednesday (March 8), the B-52’s — also longtime advocates for LBGTQ causes — wrote, “We, The B-52’s, are deeply concerned about the numerous new bills that promote transphobia and discrimination against transgender individuals and drag artists, which have been introduced in the United States. We strongly denounce these bills and stand in solidarity with out LGBTQ+ community.”

Paramore singer Hayley Williams, a native of Tennessee, criticized her state’s governor in an Instagram story this week, writing, “Once again our state has passed two regressive and unfathomably harmful bills. We stand in solidarity with our LGBTQIA+ family and local LGBTQIA+ orgs in this fight, not only for inclusion for our friends and family in the queer community, but for radical acceptance and empowerment for each of them. Drag is not a crime. Gender-affirming healthcare for all, including our youth, is a necessity.”

Williams will perform at the March 20 Love Rising benefit show supporting Tennessee-based LGBTQ organizations that will also feature Maren Morris, Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell, Brittany Howard, Julien Baker and many more.

Check out photos of the Yo La Tengo show below.

Gil Kaufman