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MUSIC The B-52s' Kate Pierson takes the stage to urge women to vote
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2020-08-19

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Kate Pierson has been in the public eye in two different aspects. First, she's known worldwide as part of the band The B-52s, which have numerous hits, such as "Rock Lobster," "Roam" and "Love Shack." ( She also has released solo works, such as the 2015 album Guitars and Microphones—which had her working with Sia. )

However, Pierson is also an activist who has been involved in various causes, including HIV/AIDS, for decades. On Wed., Aug. 26, she will be one of many celebrities who will be part of "Women Take the Stage"—a free concert/rally to increase voting by and for women before the November election that will air on YouTube Live, Facebook Live and WomenTakeTheStage.org .

Windy City Times: Of course, these are very surreal times. How are you and [wife] Monica [Nation]?

Kate Pierson: Actually, we call it our "quarantine paradise." We're up here in the Catskill Mountains and we have a garden ( with some cucumbers, tomatoes and squash ), some land where we can walk our dog and there's a lot of hiking. Thanks to our wonderful Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo, we have low rates of coronavirus. I actually have not been in a building since March. Also, we've had some socially distanced events with family members and friends who are equally quarantined.

We have friends over at Lazy Meadow [the hotel Pierson owns in New York] during the week, but we're only at half capacity [and it's only open during the weekends]. Monica and I agreed that it's not responsible to rent every room, so we're renting only every other room and making sure people are properly quarantined.

For the first few months, I literally saw the UPS guy from a distance as he delivered things such as bleach and a new composter—so, yeah, those are some exciting deliveries. [Interviewer laughs.] We're just very cautious.

But there's the turmoil of everything that's happening in the country and, as someone on the local PBS station said, the "idiot-in-chief"…

WCT: And with the B-52s?

KP: All of our gigs were cancelled or postponed, but we did have one gig scheduled for the middle of March—and it was an '80s cruise! Only a handful of groups did it.

Our actual last gig was at Mardi Gras, in Florida. We did the whole Mardi Gras thing and went to a party and a parade and a brunch; then I heard that the virus was going around later. We were lucky that we quarantined early.

So I'm just watching the news and holding my breath. I was very excited to see that Kamala Harris is Joe Biden's running mate.

WCT: Yes—I saw you post that on your Facebook page.

KP: I don't even want to look at the comments. Every time I post anything like that… Like one time, all I posted was something about Hillary Clinton's pantsuits—not her, just her pantsuits—and people were arguing, saying they'll never listen to the B-52s again or that I shouldn't be on the site. It's crazy what starts that has nothing to do with that I post. Maybe Twitter is better, but I don't really use it that much.

But the whole voting thing is at the forefront—which leads me to "Women Take the Stage." This whole event was started by my friend Alyson Palmer [of 1:1 Productions and the band BETTY]. I've known Alyson forever; we've played with them and they've played with us. This event is about women's rights, girls' events. There will be lots of speakers and wonderful performers, and it's all virtual. Also, it's the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment passing, which gave women the right to vote.

And we've been activists for a while. We've worked with PETA and we've been AIDS activists. These livestreaming events—and I've been in five or six of them since the pandemic started—have really kept me going. There's a learning curve with the set-up—but I think everyone's going through that.

WCT: Indeed. I told someone I wish I had invested in Zoom.

KP: Yes. I actually get together with friends, virtually, and play Fictionary via Zoom. It's not the same as being there, but it's still fun.

WCT: You briefly mentioned the president. If you could ask him one question—and be guaranteed to get the truth—what would that question be?

KP: Well, I like to call him "T. Rump," because he reminds me of the back end of a T. Rex.

I'd like to ask him if he plans to mess with the election—and I think the answer is clearly "yes." If he says "no," he's a liar, and he is the liar-in-chief. I would ask him to not use his power to stay in office. I'm amazed by the broadness of the power of the president. But that's why I think "Women Take the Stage" is so important; women voting is the key. Fifty-five percent of women voted in 2016.

WCT: You've been involved in AIDS activism, as you mentioned—but that made me think of Ricky [Wilson, one of the original B-52s who died of AIDS in 1985]. What was Ricky like?

KP: Number one, he was an incredible creative force. He had a very unique songwriting style and vision. Also, he was very shy—but he was a shy genius. However, on stage he was a dynamo; he wielded his guitar like a sword.

At first, we were all a little nervous performing—but Fred [Schneider] and I were the least shy. However, hats and wigs can make you a lot more outgoing because you're in costume. [Laughs]

WCT: Lastly, The B-52s: Live at the US Festival—which shows the band performing Labor Day weekend in 1982—will be released on DVD and digital platforms Sept. 4. I know you've done thousands of shows, but what do you remember from that concert or festival?

KP: One of the amazing things was that the event was [Apple co-founder] Steve Wozniak's brainchild. This past tour, Berlin was one of the opening acts, along with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Steve is a good friend of theirs and he showed up to one of our shows just last year, which was just awesome. Berlin played at the US Festival; they were an unknown band then.

I remember that it was very hot and dusty. There were The Ramones, The Police, Talking Heads—it was an amazing, eclectic line-up. It was a very peaceful, well-organized event.

"Women Take the Stage"—which will include performers and speakers such as Idina Menzel, Vanessa Williams, Billie Jean King, BETTY, Gloria Steinem and Pierson—will take place at 8 p.m. CT. See WomenTakeTheStage.org for more information. Pierson is on Instagram @thekatepierson and on Facebook.


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