On the Beat

Chatham County Line’s NC flag ban is now permanent

Chatham County Line’s Dave Wilson taking down the flag last year. It’s not coming back.
Chatham County Line’s Dave Wilson taking down the flag last year. It’s not coming back.

Chatham County Line won’t be bringing back its North Carolina flag stage backdrop, even though House Bill 2 is gone.

This started last year, when the popular local bluegrass band took down the North Carolina flag after the passage of HB2. The law forbade local anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and it also required people in government facilities to use bathrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates.

In HB2’s wake, performers from Bruce Springsteen to Itzhak Perlman canceled North Carolina concerts in protest. And in a Facebook post, Chatham County Line noted that North Carolina’s state flag “does not currently convey” inclusivity and vowed, “this comes down until HB2 does.”

HB2 is technically gone now, although in a “repeal compromise” that has not satisfied protestors including Equality NC and the Air Horn Orchestra. And Chatham County Line’s members have decided to make their flag hiatus permanent.

Here is the statement the band released about it:

When we started this band, we decided to fly the flag of our home state North Carolina to let people know where we were from and where we call home. For us, North Carolina was the birthplace of Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs and we were from the same place, hoping to build and expand on those musical legacies. Along the way it became one of our totems on stage, much like the Chatham Co. Line signpost that cradles our microphone stand.

This all changed when our state legislature decided to overreach their bounds and pass House Bill 2. It was this moment that we realized the flag stood for more than our home and its rich traditions and musical luminaries, for some, the flag represented oppression and governmental overreach. For us, that was a breaking point and we resolutely and permanently removed the flag from our stage.

We are musicians first and foremost and we long to hit that beautiful note together that transcends time and place. Flag or no flag, this is our mission and no matter a person’s race, religion, class, gender, or sexual orientation, if we can make them smile then our job is done. If someone asks about our home, we will tell them of the rolling Blue Ridge, of the Pisgah, of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, or of hearing Doc Watson sing in Wilkesboro. That is the North Carolina that stands the test of time, is permanent, and will continue to inspire long after we lie beneath her soil.

David Menconi: 919-829-4759, @NCDavidMenconi