I’m wary about jumping on the “nature is healing” train, but I have to admit that when I heard the news that groundbreaking gay country band Lavender Country were returning to the Hideout stage for the Cosmic Country Showcase, it felt like a pretty big ray of hope—every time they’ve graced this festive event with their tunes, it’s been a great celebration. Led throughout their various incarnations by 77-year-old Patrick Haggerty, Lavender Country released what is almost certainly the first openly gay country album in 1973. That self-titled LP is majestic and magical; almost half a century later, I still think it’s one of the best country records ever made in terms of its instrumentation, melody, and eloquent, poignant lyrics. The universe of the album is raw and confrontational, and touches on Haggerty’s socialist anger—which at that time was less provocative than his songs about emotional connection and sexual wooing between men. Due to its themes and the era of its release, Lavender Country ultimately proved hard to market, and its original pressing on Gay Community Social Services of Seattle was limited to 1,000 copies.
Reissued by Paradise of Bachelors in 2014, the record drew in new listeners with its beauty and brilliance, and in 2016, Dan Taberski helped spread the word further with the short documentary These C*cksucking Tears, which debuted at South by Southwest. When Haggerty and the current iteration of the band finally released the follow-up to their debut, 2018’s Blackberry Rose and Other Songs & Sorrows, it was to a whole different world. An openly queer country album was no longer an isolated oddity, it was a contribution to a community, and there was an audience eager and ready to receive it. Haggerty made his latest musical statement in January when he unexpectedly dropped a new single, “Treasures That Money Can’t Buy” (not to be confused with the classic gospel song of the same name). It’s a sentimental song delivered in a classic, straightforward style with production that feels like it could have come off an old 78. It’s a reminder to cherish the intangibles of friendship and love over the cruel demands of the rat race—and the bite of Haggerty’s scorn for greed gives it sharp teeth.
The Cosmic Lavender Country Tour Lavender Country headline the Cosmic Country Showcase, with host Andrew Sa. Fri 10/29, 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, $15, 21+