Twitter Storm on the Way to Desert Daze: Sean Lennon and Globelamp Light Up a Protest Debate

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Vincenza Blank | October 14, 2016

photo by Angela Izzo

We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon, And we got to get ourselves back to the garden. (“Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell)

This album is dedicated to Maia Hisamoto, who sat in the living room with us brainstorming this album – a dedication in Globelamp’s Star Dust.

Desert Daze is a homegrown music festival that has taken different forms over the last five years. The vision of the founders was “a smaller, friendlier festival experience that bolsters community, positivity, artistic expression, and good feelings.” At its inception in 2012, it was eleven straight days of music and last year there was but one. This year it will take on what’s become the more standard festival format of Friday through Sunday (October 14-16) at the Institute of Mentalphysics in Joshua Tree, California. Daze has a tripped out vibe more so than the maturechella Desert Trip which will be down the dusty road this same weekend.

On September 6, Sean Lennon voiced objections to a boycott of Desert Daze mounted by Elizabeth le Fey, the singer-songwriter behind the psych-folk moniker Globelamp. Lennon and le Fey have never met in person but had some amicable interchanges on Twitter before le Fey privately messaged Lennon an Impose Magazine article detailing a messy relationship with Foxygen singer Sam France that resulted in allegations of abuse on both sides.

It was during their year-long relationship that le Fey lost close friend Maia Hisamoto. Young and healthy, Hisamoto died suddenly in a way that slaps how vulnerable and fragile we are in our face. Globelamp’s song “The Negative,” is inspired by the last message Hisamoto ever wrote her. Advising her to carry black obsidian (she changed it to onyx) to block out negative energy. While talking over the phone from his Manhattan home about the heavier main subject, Lennon’s voice lights up when he turns to that song, “just amazing, it’s like a Syd Barrety kind of thing meets Linda Perhacs and I like it a lot.”

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Le Fey had hoped Lennon would share the Impose article. After he read it he wrote a “response that was thoughtful considering she was asking something rather large of me which was to come out promoting an article against somebody who I vaguely know and I don’t even know who you are…seemed like something I didn’t need to respond to considering you know I get a lot of letters online all the time.” Afterwards, they both felt hurt. Le Fey by his refusal to share because she thought he’d be someone who’d understand; Lennon by her failure to reply.

A few weeks later he noticed le Fey’s #protestdesertdaze. It was the festival’s inclusion of Foxygen that prompted le Fey to launch a boycott. As well as a feeling of alienation at being excluded as she thought she was part of the L.A. music community; she plays the little spots. Le fey didn’t think anyone would really care that there would be “drama action,” she just wanted to reach her fans and set an example for speaking out. Lennon objected, “You can say whatever you want about the band but if you try to punish an entire festival of people, you’re punishing innocent people who don’t know anything about your situation…they’re good people. They’re good friends of mine.”  Over the summer Lennon had toured as a member of The Claypool Lennon Delirium with JJUUJJUU, a band with Phil Pirrone, who runs Desert Daze.

Le Fey saw this as an effort to silence her. A “check your male privilege” was fired from her side and a “fuck you” from his. They had been communicating via DMs. Unaware that Lennon thought there was unspoken trust that such correspondence should remain a private exchange, le Fey posted his message publicly. This set off a twitter storm that took on a life of its own. Le Fey and Lennon both had vitriol directed at them. Lennon was told “why don’t you just go and die” and le Fey received messages that she deserved to be hit.

Accused “of being an abuse apologist and a misogynist,” Lennon felt framed by a narrative forced upon him and not told accurately. In the exchanges that followed from his effort to defend himself against vile accusations, Lennon wrote two tweets which further inflamed the discussion.

The first reduced the Desert Daze protest to a metaphor.

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Though Lennon removed the tweet because he should have written “allegedly,” he stands by the analogy. He challenges those protesting to think in terms of the shutting down of Woodstock – the largest gathering of Americans since the Civil War and one that arguably changed the world. He believes that a boycott of an entire festival “doesn’t make sense because why are you punishing workers and attendees, over four hundred thousand people…because of one alleged abuse.” He understands “that people were upset by that metaphor but I’m sorry I have to stand by the logic of it. It’s completely sound in my view and that doesn’t mean I’m a misogynist.”

Le Fey says she well knows she’s not Beyoncé in terms of any negative impact she can cause to the festival. But Lennon, emphatically replies, “if something is wrong it doesn’t make it okay just because you may not do it a lot.”

The reason she doesn’t confine her protest to the band, le Fey explains, as Lennon would find more understandable, is because she’s been doing that for over two years and no one listens. The main reason for the Desert Daze protest is “to bring awareness to the LA music scene. If enough people say it’s not cool then the LA music people will listen. I can write a letter they don’t care. I can email people they don’t care. People care with numbers getting mad.”

Lennon points out he wrote her back. Obviously he cared. He also hopes that any man, any woman, of any position in society would treat serious accusations logically and not rush to judgment.

In the midst of the controversy, Lennon was accused of mansplaing which he takes issue with. As it’s a gender specific term, he holds that he couldn’t be mainsplaining  considering he doesn’t even know the sex of everyone he’s speaking with on twitter.

The second tweet was based on a technical semantic debate and was spun out into several online pieces.

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“I just thought it was kind of provocative and funny and look it was at a moment I was incredibly preoccupied and heated and angry from being thrust into this twitter NATO, Globelampgate as I call it.” He admits he dug his own hole as he knew it would piss people off but he didn’t anticipate to what degree.

“I don’t really care that much about this term. I just found it interesting that the term itself is a putdown. Just because there’s a phenomenon with misogynist men being assholes to women when they’re talking doesn’t mean we have to use a word specifically gendered towards men.”

“I found that to be an interesting thought, maybe it’s not but [that]…also doesn’t mean I don’t understand what the term means or that I’m denying that it happens.”

He further explains that even if you disagree with his logic and think it’s okay to shut down an entire festival because of one alleged abuse, “it’s a difference in opinion in how protest should work, it doesn’t mean that I’m a misogynist, it just doesn’t mean that.” His mother “is arguably a famous feminist…I was raised by [one], of course I am.”

Lennon connects the two controversies, “we have to be able to have a discourse about the definitions of words And we have to be able to talk about whether the best way to protest an alleged abuse is to protest an entire festival or just the band…or just the person…If we can’t discuss these things without being branded evil then literally I think society will be lost.”  

An important element in the online reaction to Lennon’s postings was the pre-scripted idea many have of how the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono should react to le Fey’s campaign. Some exhibit a sense of proprietorship. There’s a comfort in believing they know how a person should be without respect for that person’s own autonomous life.

It happened among those with a negative view. “It was just unbelievable really, it just shows what people really think of me which is amazing – need only scratch surface and realize what their opinions of me are based on nothing other than I was born the son of John and Yoko.”

As well as those with a specific ideal, Lennon says his mom, “thinks this kind of stuff is funny. A lot of people online kept saying Yoko come get your son, he’s a misogynist, you gotta show him what’s up. I find it offensive that they presume to know what my mother would think. “  

And on the issue of making judgments about abuse, he explains online that his mother agrees with him about being cautious regarding cases among strangers. The issue is not whether or not it’s a horrible thing; it’s that he can’t make the decision. “If there was abuse…it’s obviously a horrid thing.”

Generally speaking, one reason the handling of these situations is difficult is that domestic violence is often under reported. The U.S. Dep’t of Justice – Bureau of Justice Statistics August 2012 Special Report notes that: “From 2006 to 2010, a greater percentage of victimizations perpetrated by someone the victim knew well (62%) went unreported to police, compared to victimizations committed by a stranger (51%).”

Lennon’s belief that the only way to care “is to be incredibly careful” is supported by the position taken by the Desert Daze festival itself.  

Julie Edwards, one half of the fierce two-women band Deap Vally, first learned of le Fey when she “was sent a screen grab of the ‘protest’ which came out of nowhere for me.” Married to Daze’s founder Pirrone, she answered questions via email while her band tours Europe. Edwards emphasizes that they are completely against all forms of violence and “immediately looked into le Fey’s abuse allegations and could reach no conclusion either way. It is not a music festival’s job to censor artists based on one person’s claim against another person.” Edwards asserts, however, that “we would never book a band that we felt would put anyone at our event in danger or make anyone feel unsafe. There are, in fact, artists who I will not name that we have avoided booking year after year due to their inappropriate behavior towards women…we work hard to foster a safe environment backstage.”

In a tumblr post, le Fey herself echoes the ethos behind the Desert Daze festival of a desire for a safe place of artistic expression and good feelings. Though we often fall short, it speaks to how we ideally aim to treat one another whether we agree about a level of protest or protesting at all; whether we’re in the workplace or out in the community and in the world of music – It speaks to how ideally we’d be playing and creating. “I know that it is wrong to treat people like they don’t matter and I hope I never make anyone feel [that] way…Music is supposed to come from the soul. It should be fun to play with your band.”

Screenshots From the Storm

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