Burger Boogaloo Festival Cuts Ties with Record Label After Sex Abuse Allegations

SWMRS perform at MTV's "Wonderland" LIVE Show on October 27, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Mark Davis/Getty Images for MTV)

Update, July 22, 10:13am: After announcing plans to rebrand following allegations of abuse, Burger Records shut down completely, Pitchfork reports. The label plans to remove all of its releases from streaming services, though co-founder Sean Bohrman said artists are free to re-upload their music themselves. 

This week, numerous women came forward with accusations of sexual assault and misconduct against several bands affiliated with Southern California rock label Burger Records. And today, the organizers of its namesake Oakland festival, Burger Boogaloo, announced they’re severing ties with the label and changing the festival name.

Claims of abuse surfaced on the Instagram account @Lured_By_Burger_Records, which accused numerous musicians in the label’s orbit of rape, sexual harassment, emotional and physical abuse and sexual coercion of teenage girls. While some of the accusers are anonymous, others are notable musicians in the garage, punk and indie rock scenes.

Lydia Night, singer of The Regrettes, accused SWMRS drummer Joey Armstrong (son of Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong) of pressuring her into a secretive, sexually coercive relationship when he was 22 and she was 16. (Armstrong has since published an apology to her on the band’s Instagram.) Cherry Glazerr singer Clementine Creevy came forward with accusations of statutory rape against The Buttertones’ Sean Redman, who she said pressured her into a sexual relationship when she was 14 and gave her two sexually transmitted infections. (On Instagram, The Buttertones posted that Redman is out of the band before deleting their account.)

The @Lured_By_Burger_Records account also features screen shots of sexual misconduct accusations, many of them anonymous, against musicians from the bands Cosmonauts, The Growlers, The Black Lips, Magic Jake, Audacity and others. The accusers’ testimonies allege a pattern of older, male musicians pressuring mostly underage fans for sexual favors.

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In response to the allegations, Burger Records released a statement on Monday promising structural changes at the label. Co-founder Sean Bohrman has been placed into a “transitional role,” and the other co-founder, Lee Rickard, stepped down as president. Jessa Zapor-Gray stepped in as interim label president, and the label has rebranded as BRGR RECS “to create a clear delineation between the old and the new Burger Records.” Furthermore, the label vowed to create an all-woman imprint called BRGRRRL, work with experts in consent education and set up a fund to pay for counseling for “those who suffered such trauma while engaging in the Burger scene.”

Still, some accusers and their supporters see these amends as insufficient. “Jessa, you can’t skip the difficult steps of authentically coming to terms with what this label has done (and coming to terms with your own decision to try to lend them credibility at this crucial time) and skip to the easier steps of planning hypothetical safe spaces at hypothetical future shows. Address the past and present abuse before trying to skate into the company’s imaginary future,” wrote the @Lured_By_Burger_Records account. “You are NOT trying to build a ‘new’ label. If that’s what you were doing, you would be so well supported! You’re trying to re-brand an existing label (in a comically bad way, btw) in order to distract from years of rampant and systemic predation, for the convenience of its ownership, and to possibly further your own career?”

Reached by KQED through their publicist, Burger Boogaloo organizers Marc Ribak and Amy Carver of Total Trash Productions said that they broke from Burger Records after hearing of the allegations on Monday night. “The label’s involvement was always fairly superficial, and Burger Records never profited from ticket sales; They simply lent their name to the festival, boosted the festival via social media, and were given a merch booth on the premises,” wrote Ribak and Carver.

Their statement continues: “As the organizers of Burger Boogaloo, we accept responsibility for what happens at the event, and while we have always worked to take swift actions in removing individuals from the event or our line-up who have acted violent or inappropriate, we know that we can always do better.” Their next show is still slated for July 2021, with feminist punk band Bikini Kill as the headliner. A new festival name has yet to be announced. Read the full text of Ribak and Carver’s statement here.