It’s been a decade since Sonic Youth played their final show, but they’re not letting a little thing like that stop them from standing up for abortion rights in Texas. The influential New York band announced today that they are releasing two vintage concerts via Bandcamp to raise funds for grassroots groups fighting back against Texas’ draconian abortion ban, S.B. 8.
“In times like these it feels good to be able to take some action instead of being totally frustrated by the system,” Kim Gordon says in an exclusive statement to RS. “This Texas law is pure old-west-style vigilante, cowboy DIY mentality that goes against the constitution. We will only overcome this if we’re an engine coming out against this regressive and inhumane law, by coming together. I hope this brings awareness and encourages other people to join the fight by donating.”
The band is offering two full shows for stream or download, neither one previously released: One night at the Austin Music Hall in November 1995, during the Washing Machine tour, and another from the Gypsy Tea Room in Dallas in June 2006, during the tour for Rather Ripped. All proceeds on Sonic Youth’s side will go directly to Fund Texas Choice and the Abortion Support Network — two groups that help people who need access to reproductive healthcare in Texas and Ireland, respectively.
Sonic Youth are also selling three new T-shirts to raise money for the same abortion funds. Two of the shirts feature images by photographer Pat Blashill paired with pro-choice slogans, and another is based on one of artist Richard Prince’s Sonic Nurse-era paintings.
Texas’ law — which effectively offers cash bounties as an incentive to private individuals who police their fellow citizens’ reproductive choices — has been widely denounced as a dystopian attack on the bodily autonomy of pregnant people and an illegal end-run around the constitutional right to an abortion. Attorney General Merrick Garland called S.B. 8 “clearly unconstitutional under long-standing Supreme Court precedent” in September, when the federal government sued Texas over the ban; the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in that case earlier this week.
Sonic Youth join pro-choice musicians such as Lucy Dacus — who donated all proceeds from her recent shows in Texas to a group of grassroots abortion funds, saying, “Being forced to carry a pregnancy to term is just evil” — and Billie Eilish, Megan Thee Stallion, and Phoebe Bridgers, all of whom spoke out against the repressive Texas law when they played last month’s Austin City Limits festival.
Despite being split up since 2011, Sonic Youth have shared a treasure trove of excellent concert recordings from their archives in recent years, keeping fans of their revolutionary noise and alt-rock artistry happy. In a statement accompanying the fundraiser, the band noted a particular gratitude for the people of Texas, mentioning their early tours there in the mid-Eighties with artists like Daniel Johnston and Butthole Surfers: “The enduring support from Lone Star state fans for SY warrants a favor returned specifically for this state’s fanbase, and in broader scope, Sonic Youth support a national and world community where abortion is embraced as health care and a human right.”