By Vivien Holmes, Contributing Writer
Patrick Haggerty wears his politics and his queerness on his sleeve, telling his audience at the Cactus Club (to rapturous applause): “I went into the Peace Corps a petite bourgeois aspiring senator, sappy Democrat… and I came out of that experience a screaming Marxist bitch!”
The new mini-documentary “CC Presents: A Lavender Country Special”, from Natasha Woods & Marcelo Martinez and The Cactus Club (known as ‘Milwaukee’s CBGB’) opens with a couple of songs from Haggerty, recorded in April 2021 in what looks like a low-key living room setting . Haggerty’s voice is as distinctive as ever and the backing band, especially Lolo Marie’s backing vocals, provide a gorgeous setting for the songs.
The next two thirds of the film are an interview with Haggerty about his childhood; growing up on a Tenant Farm in Washington, interspersed with footage from a pre-pandemic full house gig (also at the Cactus Club) in April 2019.
Haggerty performs a new version of “I Can’t Shake the Stranger Out of You” that is completely different from the original on the 1973 Lavender Country album. It’s emblematic of Haggerty’s approach to everything in life; to bring forward his work from almost 50 years ago adapted and shifted. It parallels his talk in the interview on the importance of evolving his politics, and bringing in black, trans and women’s voices.
In a world where queer discourse around country can skew towards the centrist liberal ‘love is love’ end of the spectrum, it’s a delight to have someone like Haggerty talking about the genre’s radical roots and the excision of class struggle from both country and queer activism. He’s a great speaker and interviewee so it’s hard not to just fill this review with quotes! One that particularly stands out is:
What we get from the whole film is this huge sense of community surrounding Haggerty. We see him with a ton of other queer and local Milwaukee performers like Paisley Fields, Nat Harvie and Nickel&Rose. Plus his rapport with the crowd is electric. His politics are grounded in class solidarity and gathering the people together and that shines through in his interactions with both his fellow musicians and the audience.
The film culminates with Haggerty presenting his husband to the crowd of the Cactus Club (“He’s bashful… but he’s got merch!”) and it’s a great final moment. At a tight 19 minutes it’s a fantastic short film, essential viewing for any queer person, country fan, or Marxist, and a delight for those of us who’re all three!