Self-dubbed “queer punk” band PWR BTTM has seen a meteoric rise to cult fame in recent years, becoming popular amongst a young, progressive, socially-conscious subdivision of alternative music fans for their charismatic defiance of gender roles and their active promotion of inclusivity, acceptance, and radical empathy. With a loyal fanbase in their corner, many anticipated a massively successful release of their sophomore album, with Noisey even describing the duo as “America’s Next Great Rock Band.”
All of the band’s seemingly-impenetrable momentum came to a crashing halt just days ago when sexual abuse allegations made against lead singer, Ben Hopkins, surfaced online on the same day the band’s second album, Pageant, was due for release.
Fans and media outlets alike were quick to condemn any potential acts of sexual violence, with crippling backlash coming in a rapid domino effect after the allegations made their rounds about the internet’s viral news cycle. The band faced large amounts of criticism from significant leaders in the LGBT community, a demographic which encompasses not only many of the band’s fans, but also both members of the musical duo themselves.
The post that originally sparked the massive public controversy initially appeared in a private Facebook group called DIY Chicago, after being posted by a Facebook user named Kitty Cordero-Kolin, who others say is known to be an active member of Chicago’s DIY scene. The post called out PWR BTTM lead singer Ben Hopkins, accusing Hopkins of being a “known sexual predator” who had engaged in or attempted multiple inappropriate assaults, as well as having harassed members of the queer community and even sought out the unwanted engagement of underage minors.
“U should avoid going to their shows/boycott their music/not allow them in safe spaces. I have personally seen Ben initiate inappropriate sexual contact with people despite several ‘nos’ and without warning or consent.”
The post, which spread outside of the closed forum and quickly rose to prominence online on Thursday, alluded to past allegations of sexual assault against the singer, which other significant members of the punk music community came forward to acknowledge in their responses to the groundbreaking controversy.
Amongst those close to the duo to quickly address the situation was PWR BTTM support band T-Rextasy, who withdrew from all future performances with the group and even spoke out about the past history of abusive behavior which the original post alluded to in a series of statements released via their Twitter.
“We wish we could say these allegations come as a complete surprise, but that is not the truth. Around the time we agreed to a July tour with PWR BTTM, someone came to us privately and warned us that they had these experiences w Ben. They asked us not to share them publicly.”
After confessing their prior knowledge of similar accusations, T-Rextasy went on to explain their lack of action in an apology which held themselves and the band under fire unflinchingly accountable.
“At the time we felt we should continue w the tour. We did not want to out the person who had come to us in confidence. We feared that ducking out of a tour offer with no excuse would damage our professional relationships, many connected very personally to PWR BTTM.”
“This in no way excuses us from culpability. We were scared and confused but we were also selfish. We made a mistake supporting this band. We put our career above the safety of fans who have trusted us and supported us and there’s no way for us to remedy that. We feel that we may not be the only people in this community to have heard these allegations before today.”
While scandals surrounding sexual assault in the entertainment industry are often criticized for being too casually dismissive of alleged victims, many parties made efforts to transcend these potentially damaging tropes in the case of Hopkins and PWR BTTM. According to a Jezebel report, after more women came forward with descriptive accounts of the singer allegedly committing rape and other similarly severe acts of sexual violence, the band’s album release became largely overwhelmed by an erosion of their own team.
Within days of the initial scandal, PWR BTTM was dropped both by their management company and their record label. In addition to losing the support of T-Rextasy, a variety of other support bands (such as iji and Tancred) pulled out from previously scheduled gigs with the band. On top of it all, PWR BTTM lost members of their own touring band, as well as a set they had initially been scheduled to play during the Hopscotch Festival.
[Featured Image by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images]