Several musical acts pull out of SXSW over U.S. Army sponsorship, Israel’s Gaza war

SXSW sign at the Austin Convention Center in Texas, March 10, 2024. Credit: GSPhotography/Shutterstock.

(JNS) — Multiple performers have bowed out of the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas, which began on March 8 and is running through March 16. The musicians cite the U.S. army’s sponsorship of the festival — and its support of Israel — as justification for their refusal to play.

Those participating in the boycott include Lambrini Girls, Kneecap, Scowl, Gel, Okay Shalom, Squirrel Flower and Sprints, in addition to other acts, led by pressure from the Austin for Palestine Coalition.

About 80 performers have dropped out. According to the festival, there are over 2,000 performers each year, from over 60 countries.

“We can’t affiliate ourselves whatsoever with SXSW. Without our solidarity becoming totally inauthentic,” Lambrini Girls posted on X, along with “Free Palestine” and the Palestinian flag.

The tech, film and music event draws hundreds of thousands of people annually to the capital of Texas; this year, attendance estimates are at nearly 350,000.

Irish rappers Kneecap said they couldn’t participate since the army works with “the very companies selling the weapons that have murdered 31,000 Palestinians, over 21,000 of them women and children.” Those figures come from the Gaza Ministry of Health, controlled by Hamas; both the Israeli and U.S. governments have pointed to their inaccuracy.

Abraham Wyner, a professor of statistics and data science at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in a recent report that “the numbers are not real. That much is obvious to anyone who understands how naturally occurring numbers work.”

“A music festival should not include war profiteers. I refuse to be complicit in this and withdraw my art and labor in protest,” said Squirrel Flower, aka Ella Williams.

On X, South by Southwest stated that the U.S. Army sponsorship is part of a “commitment to bring forward ideas that shape our world” as the defense industry is often at the forefront of new technology. They also stated that the “have and will continue to support human rights for all.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott responded to the boycotts on X, saying: “Bands pull out of SXSW over U.S. Army sponsorship. Bye. Don’t come back. Austin remains the HQ for the Army Futures Command. San Antonio is Military City USA. We are proud of the U.S. military in Texas. If you don’t like it, don’t come here.”

The festival pushed back at the governor’s reaction, saying the festival welcomes a diversity of viewpoints, and they respect the artists’ exercise of free speech.