Lavender Country shares LGBT tales through song at M-Shop

Patrick Haggerty of Lavender Country dances with an audience member at the Maintenance Shop on April 18. Lavender Country and Paisley Fields have been touring together since March 13. 

Tanner Owens

The audience was taken on a roller coaster of emotions during Lavender Country’s Thursday show at the Maintenance Shop.

Preceded by fellow LGBT country band Paisley Fields, Lavender Country put on a near two-hour set that featured unreleased music and music from their eponymous 1973 album. The true magic occurred in-between songs, with lead singer and Lavender Country-creator Patrick Haggerty sharing vivid tales of growing up gay and finding love.

While Lavender Country’s music features humorous titles such as “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears” and “Coming Out Singing,” the messages behind them detail extreme hardships and the hatred that members of the LGBT community experienced during the 20th century. The concert hit a somber moment midway through, with Haggerty detailing his relationship with the late AIDS activist and victim, Bobbi Campbell.

Campbell became internationally-known as the first person to publicly come out as an AIDS patient. Campbell, a public health nurse, was diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma as a result of AIDS, in September 1981. The disease left Campbell with painful lesions on his feet and legs that would often bleed profusely.

Haggerty took a break between songs to share an anecdote about his friend.

“Bobbi was a mountaineer, I wasn’t,” Haggerty said. “But I went with him on a trip after he had been diagnosed. He took off his socks at the end of the day and all I could see was the gay man’s cancer; Kaposi’s sarcoma. He started boiling his socks and they were drenched in blood. It turned the water red. I tried to get closer to him but he kept saying ‘No, no, please don’t come near me it’s too dangerous.’”

The poignant story left Haggerty’s voice quivering and tears in his eyes. Haggerty proceeded to explain how despite having lesions on his feet and legs, Campbell managed to climb a steep cliff with no equipment wearing only a Girl Scout’s uniform.

Haggerty also admitted that he suffers from survivor’s guilt as a result of seeing “friends, freedom fighters and Stonewall riot heroes drop like flies” during the AIDS crisis.

Despite tears being shed on multiple occasions, Haggerty and company created a dance party in the Maintenance Shop. His partner and now husband of 31 years, J.B. Broughton, livened up the latter half of the show, dancing and clapping his way through the audience. It didn’t take long before his dancing rubbed off on multiple audience members.

Humorous stories were told throughout by Haggerty, who did not sugarcoat his promiscuity during the 70s and 80s, calling himself a “real bathhouse slut.”

“I want you all to know that you are looking at the very first person to be kicked out of the American Peace Corps in 1966 for suckin’ dick,” Haggerty said. “Thank you, thank you. I’ve worn that tiara for 50 years. It’s my tiara.”

Haggerty regularly got face-to-face with audience members and walked the entirety of the M-Shop’s audience space to meet every fan while singing.

Paisley Fields, Lavender Country’s opener, put on a tidy 30-minute show that featured covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Like Haggerty, lead singer James Wilson took time to share quick, humorous stories.

“I used to go line-dancing at the Electric Park Ballroom in Cedar Falls,” Wilson said. “It was definitely one of the butch-est things I’ve ever done.”