Country Queer

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Lavender Country, Secret Emchy Society, Mya Byrne Light Up Sonoma

First “CQ Presents” event charms the North Bay

Patrick Haggerty of Lavender Country. Photo courtesy of Sarah Stierch.

By Dale Henry Geist

Patrick Haggerty, as he would be the first to admit, is a little old man. 75, standing not more than 5’5″ and weighing maybe 130lbs in pink cowboy boots, the man who put out the first gay country album, Lavender Country, in 1973, is also a towering giant. Confrontational, frank, funny, lovable and as resolutely courageous as ever, Patrick held the Starling Bar crowd in the palm of his hand as he literally got in their faces to deliver his radical stories and sharply-crafted lyrics.

He and his band, performing as Lavender Country, were a much-needed reminder of the indomitable spirit required to survive the brutal circumstances that were your lot if you dared to be queer in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and which still obtain in much of America today. In Sonoma, with its atmosphere of genteel liberalism, where it’s easy to be out, we can often take for granted the hard work that folks like Patrick have done to pave the way.

Mya Byrne. Photo courtesy of Sarah Stierch.

Mya Byrne, an Award-Winning songwriter and trans woman in the Americana scene, opened the show with a rockin’ solo set of hard-edged, poetic lyrics delivered on a wave of Tele-and-tube-amp crunch, before taking her place as the lead guitarist in the Secret Emchy Society and the bassist in Lavender Country. Busy badass.

Secret Emchy Society was the middle act, coming on after Mya Byrne and leading into Lavender Country. Led by CQ’s Managing Editor, Cindy Emch, the band delivered a set of outlaw country in the classic tradition of June Carter & Johnny Cash, Hank Sr., and Kitty Wells. Heartbreak and a honky-tonk groove pulled the cowboy boots onto the dance floor in every gender combination you could hope for.


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own
Secret Emchy Society. Photo courtesy of Sarah Stierch.

Big smiles and big tips led us to conclude that everybody had a good ol’ time. We’re looking forward to the next one – watch this space!

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