Last Saturday, shoegazing country crooner Orville Peck surprised audiences at his sold-out show in Seattle.
"I am beyond excited to announce that our show tonight at [Barboza] will be featuring a secret opening set by a legendary guest," Peck tweeted the afternoon of the show. The tweet included four emojis: a crystal ball, a cowboy, a heart, and fireworks. Three of the emojis shared a color, lavender.
SEATTLE!!! I am beyond excited to announce that our show tonight at @barboza206 will be featuring a secret opening set by a legendary guest. Hope y’all have your tickets because this is gonna be amazing. 🔮🎆🤠💜 pic.twitter.com/5So63DLy6J
— Orville Peck (@orvillepeck) May 18, 2019
Shrewd emoji readers recognized those lavender emojis meant only one thing…
…the cult country band Lavender Country would be opening for Mr. Peck!
I was thrilled. After reading a recent Billboard interview where Peck praised Lavender Country, I asked in a blog post if Peck and Lavender Country could play a show together. Lavender Country is based in the Seattle area, so I didn't think the ask was out of the question.
But I also didn't think someone would actually make it happen! According to Lavender Country's lead singer and guitarist Patrick Haggerty, Peck contacted the band late last week and asked if they would join him as an extra opener.
Thankfully, they said yes, making the dreams of many gay cowboys come true—Peck included.
💜🤠💜 Lavender Country: Why did I make the first gay country album? My dad said I could. pic.twitter.com/j37x8G0jCq
— Chase Burns (@chaseburnsy) May 19, 2019
Even though they are both gay-themed country music artists, Peck and Haggerty don't necessarily share a style. Haggerty's singing has a brash activist bent, whereas Peck ventures into operatic crooning. But both men share an outsider's approach to country, a genre that is having an existential crisis as artists on its fringes are conquering the industry.
At Peck's Saturday night show, Haggerty was decked out in his lavender cowboy getup. His cowboy hat sported a little rainbow.
The band played through their only album (for now), the famous and self-titled Lavender Country. Forty-six years after the album's release, Haggerty seemed to have the same mouthy swagger.
Recognized as the first-known gay-themed country album, Lavender Country is a funny, rebellious, and surprisingly poignant record covering a broad range of gay themes, from cocksucking to abolishing prisons. It was a project of early gay activism in Seattle, funded and released in 1973 with the help of noted activist Faygele Ben-Miriam. The Stranger's Eli Sanders interviewed Haggerty about the activist and the Seattle gay scene in the '70s for Tablet magazine in 2012, where Haggerty told Sanders:
"When I met Faygele, there weren’t all that many people out in Seattle—like, maybe 40 or 50. So, the circle was small, and I was in the circle and eager to meet anyone. … Faygele was also a radical. He wasn’t just out. He was a radical. I have a very similar personality. Not so much anymore, because I’m old and tired. But at the time I was a rabid, in-your-face, screaming Marxist bitch.”
Haggerty repeated this "I'm a 'screaming Marxist bitch'" line multiple times on Saturday, each time to whoops and hollers. He also gave an emotional and witty nearly 10-minute speech about how he was able to make Lavender Country, crediting his father's support. He told a story about his dad, a dairy farmer in Port Angeles, picking him up from 4-H club while Haggerty was dressed in drag. He was 13. His dad didn't bat an eyelash.
"This man, who looked like a hick out of a comedy Hollywood movie, never once denigrated me," Haggerty told the crowd. "Never once put me down. Never one time did he say, 'Don't you think it's inappropriate to wear a ballet outfit at the 4-H camp at 13 years old?'" (The band sold a picture of a 13-year-old Haggerty in drag at their merch table.)
"Why did I make the world's first gay country album? My dad said I could!" Haggerty hollered. "His name was Charles E. Haggerty. He was born in 1901 and died in 1960. So there's no excuse for any father in America today rejecting their gay children. There's no excuse for it." People cheered.
"I call my father Saint Charles of the Sissies. Saint Charles knows the way," he finished. Laughter and sniffles from the audience.
Peck, given away by the shadow of his cowboy hat, was seen watching Lavender Country's set from offstage. Eventually, Peck came onstage to sing Hank Williams's "Hey, Good Lookin'" as a duet with Haggerty. I was verklempt.
After their duet, Peck told the crowd that performing with Lavender Country was a dream come true. He was visibly bashful, despite his face being covered by a fringed mask.
"Patrick, honestly, it's, this has been so, you are—the most—you're just so incredible," Peck stammered. "I can't believe I—I can't believe I got to see you perform tonight and that you're here…"
"Hey," Haggerty interrupted. "Orville, I'm spoken for, honey. I'm spoken for," referring to his longtime partner, who'd danced throughout the crowd with him earlier in the set. "Now if I hadn't been spoken for, we could talk." Everyone laughed.
"Well, you let me know, okay?" Peck joked with his characteristic charm.
After a beat, Haggerty quipped back: "Don't hold your breath." More laughter.
The whole evening felt special; the right way for Orville Peck to play Seattle for the first time. I expect they'll be at a much larger venue the next time they saunter through town.
Missed Saturday's performance? Peck will be playing a free, all ages show at Easy Street Records tonight at 7 p.m.