A couple of weeks ago, New York’s PWR BTTM were the “It” band, the Next Big Thing. I featured them on both my daily radio show on 102.1 the Edge and on this site’s Top 11 Playlist. Vice called them “America’s next great rock band” while the New York Times declared them “fabulously defiant.” NPR was giving them lavish attention. All the cool kids were looking forward to the release of their second album, Pageant. Everything seemed to be going PWR BTTM’s way.
Then the, er, bottom fell out. The band is now completely ruined. Members of the touring outfit have quit. They’ve been dumped by their management. Their music has been pulled from iTunes and the streaming music services. Shows have been canceled. The band has effectively been erased over the course of a week.
Everything begins with allegations of sexual assault and predatory behavior on the part of Ben Hopkins, one-half of the band. It started with a single Facebook post on May 10. I’ll let the Washington Post take over.
In a matter of days, the band’s idolized status had utterly imploded; by Tuesday, PWR BTTM’s music had all but vanished online, after its record label requested that the band’s work be removed from digital stores and streaming services.
It was a stunningly sudden fall for a band that had ascended to the heights of the queer punk scene, adored by fans and praised by critics since the release of its debut album, “Ugly Cherries,” in 2015. The pair’s exuberant, rebellious songs resonated deeply with many in the LGBTQ community; onstage, Hopkins and Bruce strutted in shimmery garb and glittery makeup, blasting messages of empowerment and acceptance to throngs of ecstatic fans who scream-sang along. The band’s persona was rooted in a sense of social justice and inclusion; when homophobic protesters descended on a PWR BTTM show in Mississippi in November, the duo ignored the hateful vitriol and offered audience members a safe way to access the venue through a back entrance.
But the band’s glowing public image rapidly unraveled after Facebook user Kitty Cordero-Kolin wrote a post alleging that Hopkins had engaged in sexual assault and predatory advances on multiple occasions. Cordero-Kolin (who uses gender-neutral pronouns) claimed they had personally witnessed this behavior, according toa report in Jezebel: “I have personally seen Ben initiate inappropriate sexual contact with people despite several ‘nos’ and without warning or consent,” Cordero-Kolin wrote, adding that they had also been told that Hopkins had made “unwanted advances on minors despite knowing their age.”
From there, it just got worse for the group, even though everything is happening without an official complaint or even an identified accuser. But there are reasons for that. Keep reading.