Ty Herndon commemorated the final day of Pride Month with his annual Concert For Love & Acceptance on Tuesday night (June 30), benefiting The Foundation For Love & Acceptance, GLAAD and ACM Lifting Lives.
True to its name, the nearly two-hour online broadcast featured inspiring performances and messages from the likes of Brett Young, Michael Ray, Lauren Alaina, Jake Owen and many others. In light of the spread of the novel coronavirus, event founder and co-host Herndon turned Love & Acceptance into a virtual soiree where a variety of artists not only delivered poignant performances, but words of support and encouragement to the LGBTQ+ community.
Here are five noteworthy moments from the 2020 Concert For Love & Acceptance.
“Tonight it’s all about love and acceptance and I know in these times it’s something we could use a little bit more of.”
In addition to his co-hosting duties with Kristin Chenoweth and CMT’s Cody Alan, Herndon also delivered a pair of standout performances, beginning with the haunting “Lies I Told Myself.” With a background of alternating rainbow lights displayed behind him, Herndon’s voice soared on the vulnerable lyrics as he demonstrated strength and command, proving that after 25 years he still posses the gift of piercing one’s soul with his voice. While he later closed the show with his heartfelt 1996 hit “Living in a Moment,” it was the statement he used to open the show that truly captured the heart of the event. “Tonight, it’s all about love and acceptance, and I know in these times, it’s something we could use a little bit more of,” he assured.
“This is something I really love to see in the country music community.”
Before a striking performance of “Angry Butterfly,” Kalie Shorr used her platform to applaud the country music industry for wrapping its arms around such a meaningful cause. “This is something I really love to see in the country music community and seeing country music artists come together and speak about something that’s so important to me,” she remarked about the LGBTQ-friendly event. Shorr’s song choice was intentional, as “Angry Butterfly” from her debut album Open Book captures her personal metamorphosis of learning to embrace “righteous anger” and not allow it defeat her, a notion she believes applies to the modern world.
“Honestly I think tolerance isn’t enough, we need to have love and acceptance,” she states. “If we don’t talk about what the LGBTQ community went through for so many years, we can’t step into the part where we’re allowed to be ourselves and love who you love… It’s so important to not forget what has happened.” Her sobering statements prefaced the purposeful performance, the angst embedded in the song existing naturally alongside the strength and resilience that comes from the strife she sings of, Shorr’s sweet, yet enduring voice carrying the message beautifully.
“I’m proud to be in the fight with all of you.”
With only a few sentences, Mickey Guyton offered one of the most convincing testimonies of the night. As a third time participant in the Concert For Love & Acceptance, Guyton pledged herself as a faithful ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Having recently released her compelling song “Black Like Me” about her experience living as a Black woman in America, Guyton expressed empathy for the LGBTQ+ community. “I will never know what it’s like to be LGBTQ, but I do know what it’s like to judged because you are different. We have a long way to go when it comes to loving one another and accepting and celebrating one another just as we are. But I’m proud to be in the fight with all of you,” she proclaimed. “I love you guys.”
Brandon Stansell, Shelly Fairchild and Harper Grae deliver power performances
The Foundation For Love & Acceptance’s inaugural LGBTQ Country Music Rising Stars recipients Shelly Fairchild, Harper Grae and Brandon Stansell brought the house down with their individual performances that were both thought-provoking and stirring. Fairchild kicked it off with a commanding social commentary number that explores painful moments in history. “That was him/Marching with the queers/With tears in his eyes/Trying to apologize/For all of the hate/For being crucified for the love we made,” she sings emotionally. Grae followed with the bold and brash “Love You Anyway” that proved her to be an attention-grabbing songwriter and performer who’s unafraid to speak her mind. Stansell closed out the set by bringing viewers deep into his personal story with the contemplative “Hurt People.” With his gentle voice and the song’s heart wrenching lyrics such as “nobody’s good, nobody’s evil, but hurt people, hurt people,” Stansell delved into his pain in coming out to his parents, his moment of truth making for one of the most memorable performances of the night.
“I’m a proud gay man.”
Hit songwriter Shane McAnally made a special appearance during the broadcast to perform Kacey Musgraves’ uplifting “Rainbow” that he co-wrote with the singer and Natalie Hemby. His speech preluding the song was equally profound, expressing gratitude for the forbearers who fought for equality and established a sense of freedom for him and his husband Michael Baum that McAnally admits he didn’t expect to experience in his lifetime. “The people who were born just before me didn’t have as much freedom in that regard and there are so many people that have been born after me who have other freedoms that have been taken from them,” he observes. His reflective words led into a sincere performance of “Rainbow,” a song he says is an “anthem” for he and his family. Equipped with an acoustic guitar, McAnally offered a touching rendition of the hopeful song that allowed him to showcase his serene, lullaby-like voice, making the song feel like a comforting embrace.
“I’m a proud gay man and really honored that I get to be a part of anything like this,” McAnally professes, adding that “there’s a lot more change to be done.” “I hope that everyone who hears this and sees this feels included in their world because we’re at a time when we need each other. We really do need to be inclusive and not exclusive.”