The main attraction when reggae act Capleton performed at Toad’s Place on Monday was not what was happening onstage, but what was happening in the street outside. Led by Yale’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Alliance, about 50 people gathered to protest Toad’s decision to host Capleton, who has become known for his homophobic lyrics. After failing in their attempts to get Toad’s to cancel that show, students, alumni and area residents are planning to protest again if Toad’s also goes ahead with its planned Oct. 12 show featuring Beenie Man, another reggae artist who has been blasted for his allegedly gay-bashing lyrics.
Personally, the lyrics of Capleton and Beenie Man appall us. But we do understand that Toad’s Place is a private club that reserves the right to book whatever acts it deems appropriate. We’re just shocked it considered Capleton and Beenie Man appropriate. We doubt Toad’s would hire performers who made similar comments about other marginalized groups. And the fact that these concerts are taking place with so little debate and outrage, the LGBT Alliance notwithstanding, is troubling because it reveals that homosexuals still remain a politically correct group to bash.
Defenders of Capleton and Beenie Man, including Capleton’s manager, argue that objectors are simply misunderstanding the pronunciation and vocabulary of Rasta, which Captleton makes heavy use of. But critics say the lyrics do indeed translate into hate speech; some of Capleton’s allegedly homophobic lyrics include the lines, “Burn out a queer, blood out a queer.” An e-mail campaign to get Toad’s the cancel the show produced no results, and Capleton took the stage as scheduled on Monday. Both Capleton and Beenie Man have been protested in other American cities.
If Toad’s Place insists on going ahead with the Beenie Man show, we wish it would at least show the courage accept responsibility for its performers, rather than trying to shirk it. The explanations Toad’s has offered for not cancelling the shows have been ridiculous, and Toad’s has been impressive in its ability to try to deflect the heat from itself. “We understand the feelings of the protestors,” said Ed Dingus, the manager of Toad’s. “Toad’s doesn’t take the same views as the artists who perform here. We just provide entertainment.” But when that entertainment contains hate speech, Toad’s should be aware of it. And be prepared to justify it. Toad’s has every right to refuse performers the use of the venue, and when it does not, it better be prepared to take responsibility.
Toad’s also claimed that since it only recently became aware of concerns over the lyrics of the two artists — after hearing about it on NPR, of all places — it was too late to cancel the concerts. We can’t believe Toad’s is feigning ignorance, since people began contacting Toad’s over the summer with their concerns about the performers’ lyrics. Toad’s should either say that it shares the concerns about the artists and cancel the Beenie Man, or admit that public opinion doesn’t matter, and let the show go on. It’s shameful that Toad’s doesn’t have the courage to either step up and defend its performers or step back and admit it made a mistake.