The LGBTQ+ music scene lit up in Nashville on Monday during the Love Rising benefit concert organized against the recent passage of legislation targeting transgender health care and drag performances.
More than 10,000 people attended the event in person, with more having livestreamed the show. The groups benefiting from the event include the Tennessee Equality Project, the Tennessee Pride Chamber, OutMemphis, and Inclusion Tennessee.
Spearheaded by queer singer-songwriter Allison Russell, the show highlighted the diversity in country, Americana, and rock music as well as the queer musicians paving the way in these genres.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee recently signed two anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law — one that banned gender-affirming care for transgender youth and another that ban drag performances from public spaces and from venues where minors are present.
Related: Tennessee Governor Signs Felony Drag Show Bill, Bans Gender-Affirming Care
Many of the artists spoke out about the current environment for LGBTQ+ Tennesseans, noting that a number of those performing lived in Nashville.
Related: 21 Artists Performing at Nashville's LGBTQ+ Rights Concert 'Love Rising'
Country star Maren Morris, a long-time LGBTQ+ ally, mentioned raising her son in the city.
“He's 3 and he's growing up here as a Nashvillian,” she said before she performed. “And I just want to leave this world for him a little bit better than the one we're in right now.”
Acclaimed lesbian guitarist and vocalist Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes told The Advocate that the concert was rooted in community and finding joy.
“In hard times, we lean on each other,” Howard said. “When times are hard, people want to go out, they want to laugh. They want to experience some kind of joy. I feel like any joy you can find every single day, even if it's a bird song or something as small as your favorite color. Seek that out. Don't let darkness take you because that's where they want you to be — in the dark and powerless.”
Russell told The Advocate the recent swath of anti-LGBTQ legislation is an abuse of power. “We are Tennesseans that [Tennessee lawmakers are] supposed to be representing us. They're supposed to be representing all Tennesseans.”
She explained that Love Rising was in stark contrast to the hate radiating from the legislation. The show featured voter registration tables and calls for those in attendance to contact lawmakers in the state.
“We are Tennessee,” Russell said. “You can't wage a battle on a huge percentage of your population and expect that to be good for anyone.”
Fancy Hagood, a queer country-pop singer who lives in Nashville, said Love Rising showed what Nashville and Tennessee really are.
“We live in the South, and there's a stereotypical view of what Nashville is and what Tennessee is. I think a show like this is a beautiful thing because if you look around just this room, you're looking at a bunch of Nashvillians,” Hagood told The Advocate. “You know what I mean? And we're standing here with a bunch of queers, a bunch of drag queens, and it's just, it's amazing.”
“This is Tennessee,” Hagood said. “This is Nashville.”