SXSW Artists Criticize Governor Greg Abbott Over Texas Music Ban

Tensions flare between Texas governor and SXSW musicians.

by Nouman Rasool
SXSW Artists Criticize Governor Greg Abbott Over Texas Music Ban
© Peter Nicholls/Getty Images

A group of musicians has openly criticized Texas Governor Greg Abbott following his stark message urging them not to return to the state. This controversy stems from the artists' collective decision to withdraw from the renowned South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, held in Austin, Texas, due to its sponsorship by the U.S.

Army. SXSW, an annual event that attracts thousands from across the globe, is a celebration of music, film, and interactive media. Scheduled from March 8-16 this year, the festival commenced under the shadow of the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, a situation further complicated by the U.S.'

s role as a major arms supplier to Israel and its efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza. The artists, including names like Kneecap, Lambrini Girls, and Squirrel Flower, announced their withdrawal in protest against the military sponsorship, highlighting ethical concerns.

Kneecap, in a statement on X (formerly Twitter), expressed their inability to support a festival backed by the U.S. Army, given its association with the arms supply to Israel, despite acknowledging the financial impact of their decision.

Abbott's Blunt Rebuttal

Governor Abbott's response to the artists' boycott was swift and unyielding. On X, he dismissed the artists' concerns, emphasizing Texas's military pride and telling the bands, "Bye. Don't come back." This confrontation has sparked further backlash from the music community.

Trauma Ray, a Texas-based band, and Gel, a New Jersey punk group, publicly rebuked Abbott's remarks, with Trauma Ray's response being notably harsh. Adam O'Regan of the Irish band Soda Blonde shared in a radio interview the group's transition from excitement to boycotters upon learning about the festival's partnerships, underscoring their stance as a matter of principle.

SXSW, distancing itself from Abbott's comments, reiterated its commitment to diversity and dialogue. In a series of posts, the festival organizers stressed the importance of music in fostering understanding and highlighted their dedication to human rights amidst global conflicts.

This standoff reflects broader debates about the intersection of culture, ethics, and politics, illustrating the complexities artists navigate in lending their voices to causes they believe in. As this situation unfolds, it underscores the ongoing dialogue about the role of major events in promoting or resisting various forms of sponsorship, especially when linked to contentious global issues.