It's happened already: With about 2 1/2 months until SB 1070 goes into effect, one musical act has already canceled a scheduled local performance.
In the musical world, the fallout began the week that Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law—and it was Canadians that began the debate. First, Montreal-based band Stars tweeted that they'd be boycotting Arizona: "We love AZ," read the band's tweet. "But until its racist new immigration law is repealed, Stars (and many others) will boycott this state." Then another Canadian band, Toronto's Fucked Up, weighed in on the other side (while still speaking out against SB 1070).
That band's singer, Pink Eyes (aka Damian Abraham), wrote a lengthy op-ed on Stereogum that ran with the header, "Bands Should Play in Arizona Now More Than Ever." In it, he said that bands visiting Arizona should "use whatever profile they have to address the issues around this law by talking about it in the local press."
When Curtis McCrary, booker at the Rialto Theatre (and an occasional Weekly contributor), heard that Cypress Hill was planning to cancel its scheduled May 21 performance, he appealed to them via an open letter, sent last Friday, May 7 (which you can read in its entirety on our blog, The Range.
The letter said, in part: "A boycott from high-profile Hispanic artists such as yourselves sends a very strong message that this hateful legislation should not be tolerated by any respectable society. However, there are several reasons why I hope you will consider not canceling the show, and instead use it as an opportunity to let your voices be heard, loud and clear, that this law is unacceptable and that many millions of us in Arizona and nationwide are determined to stop SB 1070 with any civil means at our disposal.
"So instead of canceling, it is my sincere hope that you'll consider joining with us to strenuously object to this incredibly backwards legislation, and still undertake the May 21st performance as a rebuke to those (who) would attempt to give the force of law to racial disharmony. There are many ways we can leverage the national media attention over this issue to amplify our dissenting voices, and I'd like to propose that we team up on a full-scale media blitz—press conference on the show day with you and us, press releases going out to local and national media about how you were inclined to cancel the show but instead are using it to let your voice be heard, filming of the press conference to post on our website and yours, etc. In addition, I propose that we will donate 50 percent of any profits from the show to Chicanos por la Causa (www.cplc.org) and/or Humane Borders (humaneborders.org), and that you consider donating a portion of your artist fee from the show to these organizations as well, or to a related charity of your choice."
It didn't work.
On Monday, May 10, Cypress Hill posted this message on its website: "In a show of resistance to the criminalization of immigrant communities and in opposition to SB 1070, recently signed into Arizona legislation, Cypress Hill has elected to cancel a performance scheduled in Tucson for May 21, 2010. This decision was made in an effort to show support and solidarity with those, undocumented and otherwise, being directly affected by this unconstitutional 'law.' Cypress Hill recognizes those living in the struggle for their basic civil rights. Rise Up!"
It's not over, folks. In fact, it's just beginning. While we can all sit back and hope that more bands take Fucked Up's position on the matter, we all know that it's far easier—and a band will generate just as much publicity, if not more—to cancel a show than play one under protest, or use a concert as a rallying cry to its fans to get involved. (Props to Denver's Flobots, who performed, unscheduled, at Tucson's May Day march.)
Scheduled to play this year's HoCo Fest over Labor Day weekend, Los Lobos initially canceled all of its Arizona bookings. The band's booking agent last week sent Hotel Congress entertainment director David Slutes an e-mail saying as much. But after an e-mail exchange, in which Slutes appealed to them to perform as scheduled, the band has, for now, rescinded its cancellation and is currently discussing its options.
"We have to make a point that the people who came up with this bill want nothing more than for these (bands) to stay away," says Slutes. "If they're here, they can more energize the base; ... (the bands) can take their revenues and direct them to either pro-immigrants'-rights causes or to the funding of lawsuits against the bill or to (anti-SB 1070) candidates who can be elected in the fall. Only good things can happen if they come here. It's much easier to cancel a show, but you're not really doing anything. You're not effecting change; you're just not showing up. As (state Rep.) Steve Farley told me, 'It's more effective to have a Mississippi Summer than to boycott.'"
If you're on the side of McCrary and Slutes (and Soundbites and the Tucson Weekly) on this one, you might want to head over to Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St., from 6 to 10 p.m., Saturday, May 15. That's where Border Action Network (borderaction.org) will be holding an event to raise funds for its "comprehensive effort to fight this bill at a legal and community level," according to a press release. For a suggested donation of $10, you'll be treated to the mariachi border songs of Pablo and Sally, as well as performances by Mariachi Tesoro de Tucson, the Last Call Girls, the Kevin Pakulis Band and Poi Zen fire dancers. The event also includes an art sale and silent auction. For more information, call 622-8848.
Might we suggest some country music to soothe your soul this week? You've got at least two worthwhile options.
Dylan Charles is a Bisbee-based singer-songwriter who recently self-released a fine debut album, Time for Breakfast, which he recorded at Tucson's Wavelab Studio with co-producer Craig Schumacher. After opening for John Hammond at the Rialto, Charles embarked on a tour of Texas. This week, he'll be back in Tucson, at Plush.
Charles' songs veer all over the spectrum, though most all are rooted in some form of country. Opener "Cool Mountain River" is an acoustic-guitar-led number with some lovely piano-playing and even prettier harmonies, while "Cheyenne" could be one of John Denver's more rambunctious songs, if Denver's voice had been throatier. "Quite Like You" is all Southern-fried Dixie funk à la Little Feat—a slinky little groove you can shake your ass to. There are a few relatively twangless, fangless ballads that veer more into singer-songwriter fare than country ("Mother Please," "Fly on the Wall" and "Sophia," which could have fit right into the singer-songwriter movement of the 1970s), while "It's Only the Wind" is an eerie homage to Tom Waits that never devolves into imitation. "Don't Go Out Tonight," meanwhile, adds a bit of Latin flair to the mix.
With a few exceptions, Charles played almost every instrument on Time for Breakfast (he also moonlights as a mandolin player for The Dusty Buskers), which only serves to make a darn good album all the more impressive.
Dylan Charles performs for free in the lounge at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., at 9:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 19. Call 798-1298 for more info.
Meanwhile, over at Vaudeville's country night, on Saturday, May 15, Rick Shea will headline a show that will be opened by Mark Insley.
Shea, a veteran of the Los Angeles country scene who has worked with the likes of Dave Alvin and the late Chris Gaffney, comes armed with a rich baritone and some fancy fretwork on both guitar and pedal steel. His latest album, 2009's Shelter Valley Blues (Tres Pescadores), is as authentic as Bakersfield will allow these days.
Mark Insley gets the ball rolling at 9 p.m. Cover is $10. Call 622-3535 for further details.
There are dozens of other great shows, so be sure to check out our club listings. A few highlights: Jessica Fichot and Gabriel Sullivan at Solar Culture Gallery tonight, Thursday, May 13; Noche de las Estrellas Concert Extravaganza at AVA at Casino del Sol on Saturday, May 15; Sisters Morales at Plaza Palomino on Saturday, May 15; Brokencyde, Jeffree Star, Blood on the Dance Floor and Stereos at Club Congress on Sunday, May 16; Carrie Underwood at the TCC Arena on Saturday, May 15; Fear Factory at the Rialto Theatre on Friday, May 14; Earth Crisis at The Rock on Monday, May 17; Warren G at DV8 tonight, Thursday, May 13; Red Scout at the Red Room at Grill on Wednesday, May 19.