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Why Sheer Mag's Tina Halladay isn't afraid to speak up about lefty causes

By Patrick Rapa
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Lots of bands have a thing or two to say about politics, but how many invite a candidate onstage to sing with them?

That’s what South Philly’s Sheer Mag did in May, summoning prospective District Attorney Larry Krasner to join them on a cover of the Clash’s “Clampdown” in the basement of the First Unitarian Church three days before the primary. The band liked the civil rights attorney’s progressive bona fides: representing Black Lives Matter and Occupy, standing up to the Fraternal Order of Police and more. Despite his lackluster vocals, Krasner secured the punk/D.I.Y. vote and won the Democratic primary decisively. He takes on Republican candidate Beth Grossman in November.

Getting so ground-level political is “a whole can of worms,” admits Sheer Mag singer Tina Halladay, but she’s no good at staying silent about lefty causes. “That’s basically being complacent, and as much as people think that’s not taking a side, it is taking a side. It’s taking the side of the oppressor in the situation.”

And if this sort of thing costs them a few “racist” or “piece-of-shit conservative” fans, she’s cool with it. “I don’t need their fucking money.”

After building momentum with high-energy shows and three well-reviewed EPs, Sheer Mag celebrates the release of its first full-length, Need to Feel Your Love, on August 26 at Union Transfer. Built on guitarist-songwriter Kyle Seely’s garage-punk melodies and Halladay’s raw, soulful vocals, these songs are brazen and unabashedly lo-fi. Most of Sheer Mag’s members met at SUNY Purchase just a few years ago, and Love makes good use of the group’s restless, youthful energy.

Pure Desire” is bluesy and groovy. “Until You Find the One” is gritty and sassy. Some are love songs; others are resistance anthems. “We get our kicks with bottles and bricks,” goes one refrain. “If you don’t give us the ballot, expect the bayonet,” goes another.

So what happens if Krasner changes his stripes once he’s part of the city’s political machine? “For sure, that would be fuckin’ horrible,” says Halladay. “But we wouldn’t pretend like nothing happened. We would, like, call him out and be like, ‘This is fucked up.’ ”

Sheer Mag is at Union Transfer Aug 26 at 7:30pm (utphilly.com). $10–$12.

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