A group of musicians performing on this year’s Warped Tour are issuing strong condemnations of Jake Mcelfresh, a 23-year-old solo artist who goes by the name Front Porch Step, and who’s been accused of sexual harassment and sexually predatory behavior by numerous teenage girls. Mcelfresh was supposedly pulled from the tour when the allegations came to light, but played a set in Nashville Wednesday.
As Stereogum reports, many Warped Tour artists are furious that Mcelfresh showed up for the Nashville leg of the tour yesterday. In January of this year, he was accused of sexual harassment and exchanging inappropriate text messages with underage girls, one of whom detailed his behavior towards her on her Tumblr. It’s behavior that sure sounds like grooming: she tweeted that all she wanted for her sixteenth birthday was for Front Porch Step to sing to her. She says he DMed her, got her number, called her up, sang to her, and promptly started steering their conversations in a sexual direction, which she went along with, she writes, “because he was famous and I didn’t want him to leave me.” It went on for well over a year, she writes:
may 2014, he began talking to me all over again as if he never ignored me. he would call me over ten times a day and we’d have conversations that lasted longer than two hours. he told me about all of his sex experiences and i told him all of mine. he always wanted to have phone sex and that was something i was never comfortable with. i did it anyways, because he was famous and i didn’t want him to leave me. i probably sent him about 50 nudes a DAY and he sent me two nudes in the total time that we’ve talked. i deleted them and i really wish i hadn’t, because he was sitting on the toilet and you could see his leg tattoo perfectly.
On April 3, Mcelfresh issued a statement on Facebook, admitting his interactions with the girls had been inappropriate, but saying he’d never had any sexual contact with any of them. He said all the interactions were consensual, which is actually not a thing when you’re a man in your mid-twenties and your alleged sexting buds are teenagers. Mcelfresh suggested that he’s being bullied:
To be honest, this whole thing is so confusing because never once was there physical interaction, only online correspondence between consenting individuals. Are there women that thought they were the only ones I was texting with - yes, but that doesn’t warrant people the ability to bully ANYONE online and make potentially life altering accusations on a forum that spreads like wildfire, (which I am learning is an epidemic all on its own and a bigger social issue we all need to pay attention to.)
Mcelfresh’s emo, acoustic style seems to resonate especially strongly with teenage girls; in this performance, from last year’s Warped Tour, he stops playing and interacts with a girl in the front row who appears to be crying:
Stereogum’s Pete Helman points out that after a fairly serious public outcry and a Change.org petition asking for Mcelfresh to be kicked off the Warped Tour bill, festival organizer Kevin Lyman seemed to indicate on Twitter that he wouldn’t be performing. But Mcelfresh played at a Nashville tour date yesterday, July 1, reportedly surrounded by security:
Other musicians on the tour are asking their fans not to watch his performances, and politely suggested to Mcelfresh personally that he go ahead and fuck off:
Mcelfresh hasn’t tweeted since April, or publicly commented on any of the controversy surrounding him appearing on the tour. Warped Tour organizer Kevin Lyman told the Nasvhille Scene that he’d been allowed to play as part of a “one-time supervised part of a rehabilitation process” and that he won’t appear on the whole tour:
He didn’t get paid. I didn’t pay him. We didn’t announce him until he was on site, nobody knew he was playing. This was a one-time supervised part of a rehabilitation process. The other process could’ve been, just like anyone, if he had to go to trial or court. Since no one has filed a charge, for me it’s time to move on. He’s not on the whole tour, this is one piece of a puzzle of trying to bring people back that have made mistakes in their lives. He could be going to jail, and if there had been charges against him I assure you he wouldn’t have been here.
Jake Mcelfresh. Image via Twitter