- Courtesy Of Caroline Thompkins
- Pinegrove, Evan Stephens Hall on far right
One of the oddest revelations during the 2017 peak of the #MeToo movement was that of Evan Stephens Hall, front person of Pinegrove. The New Jersey-based band took some time off after Hall's bizarre online confession of "sexual coercion." The group returns to Vermont for the first time in two years on Friday, September 6, at the Higher Ground Ballroom in South Burlington.
I'd like to point out that I did request an interview with Hall but was denied. However, there's no reason why I can't share with you some of the questions I would have asked him and the direction I would have steered the conversation.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I'll back up a bit. Pinegrove were one of the buzziest indie-rock bands until their abrupt hiatus starting in November 2017, about two months after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. I suppose they're still buzz-worthy in 2019, since here I am writing about them.
Hall posted on Facebook that he had "been accused of sexual coercion" from someone he was "involved with for a short but intense period of time." He vaguely described their relationship. TLDR: It sounded complicated but not necessarily abusive. Again, no accuser came forward, so the only version of events the public heard was Hall's.
Furthermore, he wrote, "I should have more actively acknowledged my position of power as a public figure ... I see now more clearly that the inherent privilege of my gender and the accumulated privilege of being a recognized performer most certainly impacted this interaction ... I have been flirtatious with fans and on a few occasions been intimate with people that I've met on tour. I've reached the conclusion now that that's not ever appropriate — even if they initiate it. There will always be an unfair power dynamic at play in these situations."
About a year later, a Pitchfork writer, Jenn Pelly, wrote a detailed profile of Pinegrove as they were just before the reckoning. It also explored the underlying causes of how and why Hall was moved to spill his guts and de facto cancel himself. Again, TLDR: Pelly alleges that an outside actor working for Punk Talks, an organization that helps musicians gain access to counseling services, was a divisive agent in the situation and may have violated a number of ethical boundaries in a misguided quest to cancel Hall and the band on behalf of unnamed persons. (You really should read all of the coverage across multiple media outlets, because I don't have enough space here to fully and completely recap the whole shebang.)
Addressing his last point, about it never being appropriate to be intimate with people he's met on tour: Do you still believe that? Aside from being an overly ascetic point of view, to claim that it's never appropriate to hook up with someone you meet on tour because you're automatically the star of that dynamic is rather self-aggrandizing. It sounds like Hall is the one unable to detach himself from his onstage persona; we have no idea if his hookups have that problem.
Hall said it's not OK "even if they initiate it." That sentiment smacks of the patriarchy. It's as if he's saying, "I know better than you, horny person who's all up on me. You don't realize that you're just under my rock-star spell. So it's up to me to be the responsible one here and make sure no one like you has any sex with me, because that would be wrong."
Newsflash: Lots of people want to have sex with rock stars, and there's really nothing you can do about it. He acknowledged that he once said that he "could sense who from the crowd would be interested in sleeping with me based on how they watched me perform." Um, no doy. That's not a "sin" original to you. Many musician friends of mine have told me that they've done the same thing. And there's nothing wrong with that!
Who hasn't stared up at a stage fantasizing about getting it on with your fave rock star? Rock stars and fans have been doing the nasty since the invention of rock stars. I've personally never had the balls to go after it, but, for those who are confident enough to go out and get it, I say more power to you.
Another super-odd point Hall makes in his post: "I'm led further to consider my demeanor in most relationships I've been in. I can be very talkative and excitable, talking about wild plans, dreams, wanting to share everything. And I'm realizing part of that confidence stems from my privilege as a man." Does it, though? Because it kind of sounds like you're simply what some people refer to as a "romantic." Other kinds of people who are not men can and do feel this way, too. I disagree that power and privilege are at play in that context.
The oddest thing about the whole debacle is that Hall called himself out. Nearly all other #MeToo incidents have resulted from a survivor accusing someone else. Since no one publicly came forward in this case, I see two possible scenarios.
The first is that Hall did what he did to get out in front of a public accusation that he thought was coming in order to cover his own ass. Better to control the narrative than have it control you, right? The other is far weirder: Hall truly felt it was somehow his duty to come clean, as he presents it in his confession. But if that's true, it's beyond problematic, because he decided it was his job to tell his survivor's story.
That's assuming there is, indeed, a survivor in the contextual definition of that word. Is it possible that Hall and the other person simply got mired in a messy affair that neither was prepared to take on? Dysfunction doesn't equal exploitation. Since there was no one to speak to the other side of the relationship, we're left to speculate.
Lingering questions: Was it necessary for Hall to bring all of this into the public arena? Could the problems he had with the unnamed person he believes he coerced have been worked out privately, with proper professional guidance? Some people would annoyingly call that a "call-in." I just call it talking to someone.
Maybe it's a good thing that I wasn't able to get on the phone with Hall. He probably would've hung up on me.
If I were a superhero, my superpower would be the ability to get songs stuck in other people's heads. Here are five songs that have been stuck in my head this week. May they also get stuck in yours. Follow sevendaysvt on Spotify for weekly playlists with tunes by artists featured in the music section.
Elvis Costello, "Watching the Detectives"
Joe Jackson, "Happy Loving Couples"
Tom Tom Club, "The Man With the 4-Way Hips"
Charli XCX, "Miss U"
Tayla Parx, "Homiesexual"