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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

‘Juxtaposition of jubilance and fear’: Love Rising concert raises funds for LGBTQ+ organizations in Tennessee matched up to $100,000

Nashville Mayor John Cooper declared March 20 “Love Rising Day” at benefit event featuring Sheryl Crow, Maren Morris, Hozier and more.
Katherine Oung
Sheryl Crow performs at the Love Rising benefit concert, as photographed on March 20, 2023. (Hustler Staff/Katherine Oung)

During their set at the March 20 Love Rising benefit concert, nonbinary country music singer Adeem the Artist summed up the dueling emotions felt by attendees and performers alike — and perhaps Tennessee’s LGBTQ+ community currently as well: “a weird juxtaposition of jubilance and fear.”

Indeed, even before we could enter the Bridgestone Arena, where a crowd of LGBTQ+ community members and allies convened and Pride flags hung from the barricades, we encountered a protestor outside calling for the end of “mutilation” of children. Similar sentiments against trans healthcare have been lobbed at VUMC and healthcare professionals across the country for months.

Allison Russell and country artist Jason Isbell announced the concert less than five days after the Tennessee legislature passed laws to ban gender-affirming healthcare for minors (Senate Bill 1) and restrict drag performances (SB 3).

From household names to local artists, a dizzying array of over 20 country, folk, pop and rock performers graced the stage, alongside drag queens featured as emcees and special guests. The performances were live-streamed to viewers and interspersed with pre-recorded video messages from celebrities such as Sara Ramirez, Frankie Grande and RuPaul, who offered their condolences and support to Tennessee’s LGBTQ+ community.

SB 1 was introduced in response to allegations that conservative political commentator Matt Walsh posited against VUMC’s transgender clinic last fall. Governor Bill Lee initiated an investigation into the medical center as a result of these claims. Other anti-LGBTQ+ bills making their way through the Tennessee legislature include one that would allow government employees to refuse to legitimize marriages due to personal beliefs and another that legally defines sex as biological and immutable. On March 21, SB 841 — which would have required individuals to obtain a permit to perform in drag and prevented those under 18 from attending drag shows — failed.  

As this slate of bills continues to move across Tennessee’s and similar initiatives are pursued in other state legislatures, proceeds from the concert will raise funds for the Tennessee Equality Project, Inclusion Tennessee, OUTMemphis and The Tennessee Pride Chamber. During the concert, the Looking Out Foundation joined via a prerecorded video and promised to match donations up to $100,000. Donations and funds from merchandise will continue to support the cause; the amount of money raised so far has yet to be made public. 

Calls to engage in civic action and vote rang out throughout the night, while information was made available regarding how to register to do so.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper also made a surprise appearance to present a proclamation declaring March 20 as “Love Rising Day” in Nashville. 

“In times like this, it’s important to celebrate inclusion and remember to embrace our neighbors,” Cooper said. “We must support one another by standing up and speaking out about discrimination when we see it. We are better and stronger together.”

Described by emcee and former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Asia O’Hara as a long-time ally of the LGBTQ+ community, Sheryl Crow graced the stage with two classics. 

‘[‘Every Day is a Winding Road’] is like 30 years old, and it’s strange how it just kind of rewrites its meaning, all the time,” Crow said. 

Crow followed with another 1996 song that was less mainstream but hand-picked for the evening, “Hard to Make a Stand.” Crow explained that the song is an ode to a 75-year-old man who dressed as a woman and was asked to leave the coffee shop that he and Crow frequented. As she crooned, “And he says, ‘Call me Miscreation / I’m a walking celebration’,” Crow encapsulated the night’s theme — the simultaneous joy and fear that comes with living authentically. 

Americana artist Mya Byrne and her partner Swan Real, who are both transgender, performed a duet of the jazz standard “Easy to Love.” The couple concluded the song with a kiss, and Real reminded the crowd, “Trans people are easy to love. Trans children are easy to love.” 

Isbell then took the stage to perform his iconic track “Cover Me Up,” which he released 10 years ago this June. After introducing and praising the Rainbow Coalition Band, he sang Wet Willie’s “Keep On Smilin.” 

Joined by Russell, Hozier belted out “Nina Cried Power,” the lead single for his second studio album “Wasteland, Baby!” He elicited a resounding crowd reaction for his second performance and most famous song, “Take Me to Church.” Acknowledging that, as an Irish man, he lives far from the political turmoil happening in Nashville, Hozier referenced James Connolly, a historical figure from Hozier’s homeland who believed “no revolutionary movement is complete without its poetical expression.” 

“In a time of political repression and suppression and artificially generated fear-mongering and scapegoating, I feel that just telling the truth of who you are and being who you are and standing up for that and expressing that is a very revolutionary act and a necessary act,” Hozier said. 

Hayley Williams, known for her role as the lead singer of Paramore, emphasized the vibrant musical community and support networks her family found when they moved to Tennessee. Alongside fellow Tennesean Becca Mancari, Williams performed the live debut of her song “Inordinary” and a cover of “Did I Shave My Legs For This?”

“There are good people here that are trying to continue to make this a good place to live,” Williams said.

With her middle school daughter and her daughter’s friends by her side, Russell returned to the stage to perform “A Beautiful Noise” and “You’re Not Alone.” When Maren Morris, Joy Oladokun and Amanda Shires joined Russell for a rendition of “Crowded Table,” a parade of drag queens gathered on the stage. Morris explained to the crowd that the performer’s children, including her own 3-year old son, had met the drag queens backstage, an act which could be criminalized when SB 1 goes into effect on April 1.

“I introduced my son to some drag queens today, so Tennessee, f—ing arrest me,” Morris declared, a reminder of the political conditions that spurred this eclectic group of performers to gather — and a promise that Tennessee’s LGBTQ+ community and allies would not be persecuted without a fight.

Aaditi Lele contributed reporting to this piece.

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About the Contributors
Jorie Fawcett
Jorie Fawcett, Senior Advisor
Jorie Fawcett ('25) is from Tiffin, Ohio, and studies secondary education and sociology in Peabody College. She previously served as Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor and Life Editor. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her teaching, reading or pretending to study at Local Java or Suzie's. You can reach her at [email protected].
Rachael Perrotta
Rachael Perrotta, Former Editor-in-Chief
Rachael Perrotta ('24) is from Cranston, R.I., and majored in cognitive studies, communication of science and technology and political science and minored in gender and sexuality studies in Peabody College. She was also previously Senior Advisor and News Editor. If she's not pressing you for a comment, she's probably trying to convince you that she's over 5 feet tall, cheering on the Red Sox or wishing Nashville had a beach. She can be reached at [email protected].
Katherine Oung
Katherine Oung, Data Editor
Katherine Oung ('25) is majoring in political science and computer science and minoring in data science in the College of Arts and Science. They are from West Palm Beach, Fla., and were previously Deputy News Editor and Managing Editor. Katherine enjoys working on freelance journalism projects and making incredibly specific Spotify playlists. They can be reached at [email protected].
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