Getting asked to provide local support for a touring band is usually a good thing. So in September, when local pop-punk band The 99ers were approached about opening Teenage Bottlerocket's October 12 show at the Turf Club, drummer Chris Schoonover says they were excited.
Unfortunately, the feeling didn't last long.
"Very recently, it came to our attention that there were some really serious allegations of sexual assault that were raised against a member of Teenage Bottlerocket," Schoonover tells Racket. (You can hear the account in a July episode of Enough, a locally produced podcast that centers the victims of harassment, abuse, and assault in the music scene.)
After some serious reflection, he says, The 99ers respectfully requested that they be removed from the Turf Club show, which was then canceled roughly 24 hours before it was supposed to take place. The show was briefly moved to the Pourhouse, which also canceled once people started reaching out about the assault allegations.
First Avenue, Pourhouse, and representatives for Teenage Bottlerocket did not return requests for comment about the cancellations.
"Talking about it, we realized the obvious: that we aspire to participate in a supportive musical environment that prioritizes the safety and wellbeing of everybody against sexual violence—audience members, band members, venue staff," Schoonover says. "We just felt like if we moved forward with the planned event, it would be inconsistent with our values."
It was their friend and musical colleague Corinne Caouette, guitarist for the Twin Cities-based surf-rock band Black Widows and cofounder of the survivor advocacy group Show Up Collective, who reached out and told Schoonover and his bandmates about the allegations.
Caouette says Black Widows had also been asked to open the show. "It was awkward because we're working in a group on safer spaces with First Avenue and a bunch of other venues," she explains, referring to the Minnesota Music Coalition's Safer Spaces Initiative. She sent an email outlining the allegations against Teenage Bottlerocket and said Black Widows politely declined to take the show, and she hoped they'd consider canceling it.
As long as their band has been around, she says they've been vocal about making their shows safe for everyone. She and other members of Show Up Collective cite a feeling that some ongoing efforts are "more about liability for venues than for survivors," and it's out of this sentiment that their grassroots group was born.
"This happens in waves in the scene, with Rhymesayers, and Har Mar," she says. "We realized that there really needs to be a space for survivors to lead, not venues ... We don't have a formula for how we handle these things, but we're definitely in communication about things that are going on in the scene."
Caouette says their methods when reaching out are to be as respectful and straightforward as possible—"no hateful speech, just, 'Hey, we think you should be aware of this and we think your venue should do better to create safer spaces.'"
"It feels like people don't have tools, so that's what our group, Show Up Collective, is trying to do. Like, alright, where are the loopholes in these conversations about restorative justice and survivor-centered work?"
To her point, Schoonover of The 99ers says once he was made of the allegations, dropping off the show was the obvious decision for the band.
"We felt moving forward with the gig, we'd be part of the problem," Schoonover says. "It felt like it wasn't that tough of a decision, actually, in retrospect."
"It really does make a difference, if you have any bit of clout as a band, to reject shows and start those conversations. I think people need to utilize their privilege in any space," Caouette says. Her focus is on accountability culture—not "cancel culture"—which can be as easy as speaking up when you learn new information and being willing to stand up for women and survivors. "I think people feel like they need to be a finished product, and we just need to be in community."
If you'd like to catch a 99ers set this week, they'll be at 331 Club with Bad Companions and Best Meds on Friday.