Winnipeg Hedley show attracts thousands, despite allegations of sexual misconduct

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Winnipeg Hedley show attracts thousands, despite allegations of sexual misconduct

Allegations of sexual misconduct against Hedley frontman, Jacob Hoggard, didn't stop thousands of the band's fans from taking in the Canadian rockers' concert in Winnipeg Saturday night.

Although around half the seats at Bell MTS Place looked to be empty roughly half an hour before Hedley took the stage — with no opening act — the venue says around 5,000 people ended up taking in the show.

That's despite the allegations made by two women who spoke to CBC News in the last few weeks and others made on Twitter.

One of the women says she was sexually assaulted by Hoggard in 2016, and and the other says the singer tried to force her to do things without her consent in 2013.

Hoggard has denied the first woman's allegation and said the pair had consensual sex. 

Hoggard called the second woman's accusation "startling and categorically untrue" in a statement on Twitter and said the sex between the two was "entirely consensual."

Toronto police said Friday the service's sex crimes unit has opened an investigation into Hoggard. No charges have been laid. 

'I like their music'

TJ Larente from Winnipeg said the allegations weren't enough to keep him from the show. He says he got the chance to meet the band at a previous show and doesn't believe the allegations are true.

He says he'd still see the band even if charges are laid.

"I like their music and them as people," he said while waiting for the show to start. "When I got to meet them they were really nice people and, me personally, I don't think they would do that stuff because they don't seem like the kind of people to do that."

Many at the concert could be seen carrying pink paper cut-out hearts with the hashtag #IStandWithHedley printed on them. The hearts, which ask fans to sign an online petition to reinstate airplay of the band's songs on radio stations, were handed out by Nicole Kennedy, a Brandon, Man., woman who attended the show with her mom and her 11-year-old son.

"For me, it's about the music, right?" Kennedy said before the show. "Not the artist — I guess separating the art from the artist."

Kennedy said she sees a double standard in continued popular support or airplay for artists who have faced allegations of criminal conduct in the past, such as Michael Jackson.

"I'm not disregarding and I don't not believe the accusers. I'm just — I need facts and police reports and proper, reliable sources, not anonymous Twitter," she said. "Honestly if they do get charged, like I said, I'm still going to listen to their music."

'I hope it's not true'

Candy Adelberg came to the show with her two teenage daughters and a group of their friends, who all held up the pink hearts while waiting for Hedley to take the stage.

While she's concerned about the allegations, Adelberg said everyone — including celebrities — should be considered innocent until proven guilty in court.

"I hope it's not true, I felt that they were very disturbing allegations — it was very graphic — and I'm a mother of daughters, so I hope this didn't happen," she said, adding she's not sure she would let her daughters come to another show if the allegations are proven. "My daughter is 16 … and she's not that much younger than the woman that's making the charges.

"Like I say, I really hope it's not true because I couldn't imagine something like that happening to my daughter."

CBC News has reached out to Hoggard's lawyer for comment about news of the investigation, but has yet to hear back.

Upcoming show cancelled

The Hedley lead singer announced at the end of last month that he was stepping away indefinitely from his music career after finishing the band's current Canada-wide tour.

In the statement announcing his departure, Hoggard admitted to objectifying women and said the way he has treated them has been "reckless and dismissive of their feelings."

But he began the statement by saying, "I need to be completely clear: I have never engaged in non-consensual sexual behaviour in my life. Ever."

Hedley will next perform at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, Sask. Monday, but their concert scheduled for the following night in Cold Lake, Alta., has been cancelled according to Ticketmaster's website.