Front Porch Step Performs at Warped Tour Despite Sexual Assault Allegations

The city of Nashville was shaken up last week when the Vans Warped Tour rolled into town. Not just because it is a festival boasting loud and energetic rock acts, or because storms forced two mass evacuations, but also because one particular act made it on to the bill.

Event organizer Kevin Lyman came under fire when he allowed Jake McElfresh aka Front Porch Step to play at the event after allegations of sexual assault against minors. Paramore front woman Hayley Williams came out with the below tweet and Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years, who was set to perform after the artist, cancelled his appearance entirely. Senses Fail, Beartooth and a series of other artists have also spoken out.

The musician who clings to the emo genre, was subject to allegations that surfaced late last year and led to a petition that gathered 12,500 signatures to have him removed from the festival bill. While the idea of a twenty two year old musician using his status to prey on young females is disgusting, there is surprisingly little detail in the petition about the actual content of the alleged assaults.

On first glance, the issue surrounds a series of text messages sent to girls, with those displayed being fairly benign. Are they gross? Sure. Are they pretty similar to hundreds of other messages sent online every day? Probably. Do they clearly show that McElfresh is preying on young women? Not really. But is he a creep? Most likely. The New York Times also published an expose back in January and despite stating sexually explicit content existed, only quoted two direct texts, which stated:

“Not weird to give you my number is it? You’re not gonna post everywhere about it are you?”


“If I’m single when you turn 18 I’m just going to marry you.”

I am by no means condoning this behaviour, or saying that their aren’t legitimate concerns behind the claims, but it feels like a testament to the current click happy cause mongering that is social media; where as Kevin Lyman says “What I’ve got now is a world of lightning rods…People find their issue, they get around it for a minute, and then they’re onto something else.”

The question that seems to stand is how much responsibility festival curators and labels have to monitor acts based on their personal lives? And at what point are they charged to intervene? “I’ve been trying to encourage some of these girls that accused him to please file charges and not one person would,” Lyman stated after the performance on Wednesday. Lyman also reiterated that because McElfresh was not formally charged, he agreed to have him perform. “If he was a legitimate danger to anyone, he simply would not have been here.”

Lyman continued saying that McElfresh had undergone counselling designed by some of the best therapists in the country and his counsellors “ felt that assimilating him back into music after eight months of therapy would be a good thing… Half of these people in this parking lot, if they didn’t get a second chance in life, they wouldn’t be here on tour,” he said of the artists on the Warped Tour bill.

The most in depth encounter I have been able to find occurred between McElfresh and a then sixteen year old Tumblr user where lines were certainly crossed, but the relationship never manifested in a physical sense, as far as I can tell. McElfresh came out in April of this year with his own statement about the events after a hiatus from social media, which he says, “was the greatest thing I could have ever done.” He cites low self-confidence, body issues, and feelings of loneliness as catalysts that spearheded him into a spiral of online flings. “For a guy who didn’t think he was cool enough or attractive enough to have a girlfriend, l suddenly had a handful of “online girlfriends”…” While it is almost possible to feel sorry for the performer, he pulls the issue back into light when he says, “I never once sought out the attention from fans, but was happy to know that I had an online forum of adoring women who thought I was great. Sexual or otherwise, I only had text interactions with willing participants.” Whether or not the participants were willing, there surely needs to be an onus on the adult in the situation to behave ethically and responsibly.

While Warped Tour allowed the artist to perform, Pure Noise Records are no longer working with Front Porch Step and founder Jake Round has come out with a statement in the last few days regarding the issue and another of their artists, No Good News.

“Both were accused of far greater crimes in the blogosphere than were actually committed. I’ve thought a lot about it. It’s sort of human nature to sensationalize and embellish things, but it creates an environment of misinformation that makes it difficult to get a fair and honest assessment of a situation as it pertains to everyone involved,” he says, “Something I’ve really personally struggled with is that I really just wanted to do the right thing for everyone involved. Of course, the right thing isn’t necessarily the easy thing…” On the role that the industry plays he says, “My introduction to the business side of things was at Fat Wreck Chords 10 years ago. There was never a discussion about the label being involved in the personal lives of the artists. Never once was the idea of a “background check” brought up. Oftentimes, the deals were handshake deals, or one-album deals. It was a very informal relationship that the labels had with the bands. It was really about trust. We’ve had to learn about the changing social environment, what people expect, and what we have to expect from our bands. Going forward, we’re definitely going to consider things like an artist “code of conduct” in our recording agreements. We’re going to consider looking into the previous online and social activities of the artists that we sign, because things have changed. We want to continue to learn from those changes.”

That might just get to the crux of the matter. The lesson here is a positive one. No longer can artists objectify their fans without the strong arm of the Internet coming down on them in a big, potentially career ending, way. While in a past life teenage girls would have to pen letters and send them to a label in the hope of reaching thier crush, they can now have them on the other end of a private message in minutes. But, it’s a double edged sword, because the same channels have propelled the story into the public eye more than it would have ever experienced before. Jason Tate the founder of says that the community involved here represents “a microcosm of the larger shift in the cultural narrative,” in which “we are talking about these things more and they’re not getting shoved under the rug.”

As Front Porch Step attempts to relaunch his career amongst a scene that has largely turned on him, he will have to continue to live with the choices he has made, regardless of the perceived or actual scale of events. When he was publicly heckled at his Warped show he responded with the statement: “The difference between you and me is that I know who I am, and I fucking am very proud of that. So you can go ahead, watch my set. Thank you very much. Thanks for the ticket money, dude.” However, Kevin Lyman cleared up any misconceptions by saying he wasn’t actually paid for the show, that it was just a part of his rehabilitation. While he might be feeling comfortable in his own shoes again, something tells me it will likely be a long time before McElfresh sees any returns.