Yesterday Brooklyn musician Felix Walworth (of Told Slant, Bellows, Florist, and Eskimeaux) announced via Twitter that they will not play Told Slant's appearance at SXSW after reportedly discovering elements of the festival's artist contract that threaten to refer international acts who "[act] in ways that adversely affect the viability of their official SXSW showcase" to US immigration authorities.
Walworth also posted photos of the passages in question, which specifically warn international acts who play unofficial showcases (it's common practice for bands to play non-SXSW shows while they're in Austin). "International Artists entering the country through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), B visa, or any non-work visa may not perform at any public or non-sanctioned SXSW Music Festival DAY OR NIGHT shows in Austin from March 13-19, 2017," it says. "Accepting and performing unofficial events may result in immediate deportation, revoked passport, or denied entry by US Customs Border Patrol at US points of entry."
"I'm not interested in aligning myself with an institution that interacts with immigration authorities as a means of controlling where art is shared and performed, and who makes money off of it," Walworth continues in the Twitter thread.
Austin 360 spoke to the festival's CEO and co-founder Roland Swenson, who claimed that Walworth's photos came from two unrelated portions of the agreement (Stereogum has obtained an original copy of the document and says that Walworth's photos did come from the same section).
Peter Blackstock of Austin 360 writes, "Swenson says the potential SXSW actions that follow—including revocation of credentials and hotel reservations, or potentially notifying immigration authorities—might be invoked only 'if somebody did something really horrific, like disobey rules about pyrotechnics, starting a brawl, or if they killed somebody.'"
Pitchfork also shared a statement from Swenson, in which he says that "given the current political climate surrounding immigration, the language that was published seems strong," but that "language governing SXSW’s ability to protect a showcase has been in the artist Performance Agreement for many years."
Victoria Ruiz and Joey L DeFrancesco of Downtown Boys penned an open letter to the festival's organizers with a list of demands—namely that they publicly apologize and rescind the parts of the artist contract that threaten international artists. So far it's been signed by PWR BTTM, Priests, Sheer Mag, Hari Kondabolu, Kimya Dawson, and more.
Portland has multiple musicians and bands scheduled to appear, including Summer Cannibals, Blossom, Aminé, Johanna Warren, Marisa Anderson, Guantanamo Baywatch, and Roselit Bone. When the Mercury asked for comment on the SXSW clause, Warren called the policy "wildly inappropriate and offensive," and said it's "making me seriously reconsider my involvement with the festival." Marisa Anderson said the contract's language is "irresponsible," and noted that "If SXSW is truly committed to being an ally to international artists they need to align their contract with their speech." Joshua McCaslin of Roselit Bone responded, "The email they sent definitely uses every threat at their disposal to discourage unofficial showcases, including deportation. I’m not a capitalist lizard person, so I don’t care to defend their actions here. I believe the safety and dignity of immigrants to be much more important than SXSW’s corporate control over the festival. We will be publicly signing the petition to get them to apologize and change their policies."