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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 22, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 43
Pro-Gay rights band Steel Train set to rock Seattle
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Pro-Gay rights band Steel Train set to rock Seattle

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Steel Train
October 23
El Corazon


Rock 'n' roll acts have been promoting causes since Elvis Presley first got 'All Shook Up' and John Lennon asked us to 'Imagine.' From the African-American civil rights struggle to the anti-Vietnam movement and beyond, wherever there's music, there's activism.

When I heard that one of my favorite bands, New Jersey's Steel Train, announced that they would be rocking Seattle on October 23, I immediately went to their website to get some info on the upcoming appearance to promote their latest self-titled album. Needless to say, what I found was something so rock 'n' roll, so badass, and so awesome that I had to write about it in the pages of the Seattle Gay News. Steel Train has added a new T-shirt design to benefit two charities, the Human Rights Campaign and Embodiment USA - a web-based documentary archive committed to explore the LGBT community in America as a whole through photographs and video interviews.

Printed on White Hanes Ringspun, the shirt reads, 'Steel Train and I Believe in Human Rights and Gay Rights = Human Rights.'

Now, before I get accused of being just another giddy Gay fan, let me explain. Steel Train embodies who we want as straight allies; not one member of the band identifies as Gay, yet the band continually advocates for Gay rights, has toured with Lesbian icons Tegan and Sara, and lead vocalist Jack Antonoff has penned lyrics about Gays.

I met Jack backstage at Chop Suey in April, when the band toured the U.S. in anticipation of their current release. He was warm, engaging, and answered this reporter's questions that ranged from the usual, 'How does it feel to play Seattle?' to 'How's the road treating you guys?' But what I really wanted to know was the story behind one of my favorite songs by the band, 'Dakota.'

In the song, Jack admits, 'I know a man dressed as a woman/Heels, curly wig and nails/ Fell for a boy who sold him powder and pills/And the younger boy/With the older man/He made it all wrong/And in Dakota these awful things burn away with the sun/Yes in Dakota these awful things are gone with morning sun.'

He goes on to sing about a heroin addict, the terror attacks on September 11, and how everything changes. My question for Jack was, 'What is Dakota?'

Jack told me that he imagined a place that wasn't anyone else's version of heaven or hell, which he named 'Dakota,' where no matter who you are or what you've done (if it wasn't meant to harm others), you wouldn't be judged.

We went on to discuss the band's acceptance of their homosexual fan base. Without poking fun, he light-heartedly exclaimed, 'My friends and I [other members of the band] attended a performing arts school in New York; we've always known Gay people. I think our Gay fans are great.'

That night, Jack dedicated 'Dakota' to me from the stage. It was a defining moment for me; not as an obvious fan, but in the realization of what a straight ally could be. Here was this band of five young, gorgeous, straight rock 'n' rollers who proudly dedicated a song to an open Gay newsman from the stage. Bravo, Steel Train, bravo.

Needless to say, I will be at the show tonight and I will also buy a T-shirt that proudly proclaims that 'Steel Train and I Believe in Human Rights!' The band rocks, they are nice to look at, and they support our community. What more could you want from a rock band? See you there, Seattle!

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