People of all ages, races and sexual orientation painted Indianapolis purple on Friday, with more than 20 retail businesses and several music venues taking part in “Paint The Town Purple Day,” a consciousness-raising event organized by The Purple Hat Project.
The citywide initiative celebrated same-sex relationships in the wake of the legislative success of HJR-6, the polarizing marriage discrimination amendment that passed both houses this spring. If HJR-6 becomes law, not only would same-sex marriages remain illegal, but relationships “substantially similar” to marriage, like civil unions, would no longer be recognized by the state.
"Paint the Town Purple" was an all-day event: Eateries such as Square Rootz Deli and Just Pop In crafted special “purple” dishes and offered discounted prices to patrons wearing purple. Boutiques such as The SPA at French Pharmacie and Broad Ripple Hair Design offered purple hair extensions and purple manicures and pedicures. And Birdy’s, Talbott Street and Radio Radio concluded the night with concerts in support of the initiative.
But why purple? Why now?
IBJ, Corp. chairman Mickey Maurer’s satirical column, published in his Indianapolis Business Journal last March, served as the catalyst for The Purple Hat Project.
“Let’s enact legislation requiring immigrants and homosexuals to wear purple hats. If we are going to treat them differently, we have to know who they are—on sight," Maurer suggested in his column, noting that similar tactics had worked in Nazi Germany.
Purple Hat Project co-founders Danelle Osbourne and Joshua Driver couldn’t shake that image from their minds. And they flipped the idea on its head by encouraging all those who oppose the ideas behind HJR-6 to wear some type of purple clothing in solidarity.
“We are hoping to make an impact regardless of when these laws pass, that there are real people who this effects," Osbourne said Friday night. "It affects real lives and families and when that comes a little more real to people I hope that they have to think about it a little more."
She adds: “Love is love and that is something that we should celebrate no matter regardless of who it is between.”
Before heading uptown to Birdy's Friday night, I stopped by Forty Five Degrees to check out the evening’s kick-off event, a photo and art exhibit called “Faces of Love.” Decorated with purple balloons, purple martinis, purple dresses, the bar was by far “purplest” venue I saw all evening.
Next stop, Birdy’s, where I found an intimate crowd and caught a new local band called Blackout November, whose instrumentals could serve as the soundtrack for a black-and-white art film. Later on, I caught a few pop-punk songs by The Odyssey Favor and chatted with The Breakdown Kings, who said they were “honored” to be playing for the cause. Alt-rockers Finer closed the show.
With three shows happening at the same time, all under the umbrella of the "Paint the Town Purple" event, I couldn’t make it to both Radio Radio and Talbott Street. In hindsight, perhaps I should have chosen the latter, with its lineup of Angel Burlesque, folksters Jamie and Amy and the tap-dancing Born Again Floozies. It probably would have been more fun.
Instead, I went to Radio Radio to see one of Indy’s most sexually-charged bands, Beta Male. As anticipated, their performance was over-the-top, with bassist Allison Hazel wearing a lace leotard, keyboardist Jessica Hack playing without pants. Not to mention the two women sporting skintight leopard body suits who alternated between playing dead, writhing on the floor and executing interpretative dances.
The performance was marred with mistakes, with the band having to stop on more than one occasion when they forgot the chords. They joked that the show was more like a practice, and it felt that way, but one tune, “Are You Holden,” was pretty solid.
Preceding Beta Male was Win With Willard, an Indianapolis-via-Muncie band named after a slogan spray-painted on an overpass in Nowhere, Tennessee. They turned in a decent set, but between the metal-like jams, the punky, emo choruses and the inclusion of a harmonica, they didn’t seem to know what genre they were going for.
Was the music spectacular? No. But each band was supportive of the Purple Hat Project. Perhaps the best quote I heard all night came from Beta Male bassist Allison Hazel: “People still can’t get married; it’s bullshit. It’s cool we all got together tonight and said, ‘Fuck that; we support the right to love whoever you want to love.”
For HJR-6 to become a law it must pass the State Legislature in either 2013 or 2014, after which point its fate would be placed in the hands of voters. As hundreds of purple-clad concertgoers proved Friday night, the fight against the bill — and for love and acceptance — is in full swing.