“Are you with the pussies or the punks?” This has been a recurring comment on threads regarding Dickies frontman Leonard Graves Phillips’ recent tirade from the stage against a young woman in the crowd at Warped Tour, and it seems to be tearing apart the hardcore music community right now. But this controversy is far more complex than that crude, reductive question, and it highlights a cultural debate that reflects not only today’s sexual politics but generational divisions as well.
The incident happened last week in Denver; a video of it surfaced on June 26. On June 28, Phillips issued a statement on The Dickies’ Facebook page, saying it “wasn’t my proudest moment” but stopping short of offering a full apology.
In between and since, a lot of people have weighed in on social media: friends of those involved, fans, feminists and, most notably, The Dickies’ punk peers, some of whom have gone so far as to post “I Stand With The Dickies” memes as their profile pictures on Facebook, and others (including the formidable frontman of The Adolescents) who have taken a stand against what the band did, only to suffer backlash. Even in the wake of the July Fourth holiday, the chatter about the incident continues; yesterday, two more rockers, Eagles of Death Metal’s Jesse Hughes and The Offspring’s Noodles, weighed in on Instagram, both posting support for the band.
Some background here for those who don’t know the whole sordid story by now. The woman in the crowd on the receiving end of Phillips’ rant was a friend of War on Women, a feminist punk group on Warped’s roster (who have also since commented on the controversy). She was not a Warped attendee, as originally reported, but touring with War on Women as part of the group Safer Scenes, a project the band created to prevent harassment and violence at shows, particularly against women, minors and minority groups. In protest of The Dickies’ often obscene schtick, she held a sign in the audience that read, “Teen girls deserve respect, not gross jokes from disgusting old men! Punk shouldn’t be predatory!”
Phillips’ response: “Kiss it, ya bitch! I have fucked farm animals that were prettier than you, you fucking hog.” He then led a chant of “Blow me! Blow me!” with the crowd and added, “How does it feel? To get shouted away, you cunt? C.U.N.T. Can you spell? You’re a fat cunt. Fuck you!”
It was reported that The Dickies got kicked off the tour for the incident, but Warped’s Kevin Lyman released a statement on Friday saying that this was not the case; it was, in fact, their last scheduled date.
“I ask anyone who has an issue with anyone else on tour to come sit under my tent with me and express their views diplomatically,” Lyman wrote in his statement. “On this year’s tour we have many people who may not agree with each other, but as humans we should be able to express our points of view in a civil manner. If we have any hope to progress as a society, communication will be key in moving forward.”
Lyman invited War on Women and Safer Scenes to the 2017 tour after he received criticism for allowing Jake McElfresh (aka Front Porch Step) to perform at Warped back in 2015 after sexual misconduct allegations against the singer-songwriter surfaced. In the case of The Dickies, Lyman seems to see both sides of the issue — but if he does, he’s one of the few. There are two strongly opposed camps on this.
– Lina Lecaro RR-Magazine