Monday, November 7, 2011

Odd Future, Beenie Man and the Big Day Out


Another act has been banned from the Big Day Out.

A few years ago I was involved in the protest movement to have Beenie Man removed from the Big Day Out lineup. I did so because I believed that his lyrics were purposely inciting hate against GBLT peoples.

The Big Day Out, as I've previously stated here, is my favourite day of the year. I love it more than I love either Christmas or New Years. Each and every year is exciting no matter who is playing, and while there are inevitably idiots amongst the crowd, overwhelmingly there is a spirit of co-operation and joy of music fans seeing the bands they love.

It pissed me off to think that some of those fans, or one of those acts would be purposefully inciting hate. Not ironically, not as a means to promote one cause or another - not even in the name of art. It wasn't 'freedom of speech', it was hate speech, pure and simple. It might be OK in Jamaica, but it sure as hell wasn't OK in New Zealand, and I was, and remain proud of my role in that protest.

This year, an act called Odd Future (which is actually a sortened version of a name so stupid you would think it was the title of a Panic! At the Disco song) has been banned.

First up - I had never heard of Odd Future before this happened.

Secondly - to my knowledge there was never a 'movement' as such calling for their removal from the line up.

Thirdly - what I have heard of their music since last Friday when the announcement was made has not made me particularly interested in seeing them live.

Their removal from the lineup was initiated by one man. One man who wrote a very good letter (which you can read here). It was recieved and actioned by a member of the Auckland Council, who pulled some strings based on the fact the venue is owned and operated by the Council, and poof, an act is pulled from the lineup.

What annoys me about this situation is that it was not the audience of the Big Day Out who called for the removal of this act. Unlike the Beenie Man saga, it was not a collective voice calling outrage, it was one man. Perhaps given time it might have become a movement, and based on that I might think differently, but it never got the chance.

In fact, what has happened is a reverse. The 'movement' has swung the other way. The Big Day Out NZ Facebook page has been completely flooded with complaints and comments such as 'no Odd Future, no me'; there is a petition calling for the band to be reinstated into the lineup; and the New Zealand Herald is reporting that a seperate sideshow is being negotiated.

The difference between the Beenie Man situation and the Odd Future situation, for me at least, is a pretty simple one based on numbers and censorship. To my knowledge, Odd Future have not been banned in any country, for any reason. In comparison, Beenie Man had been pulled from the 2004 MTV VMAs, and stopped from entering England. Since the 2009 protest, he has also had performances cancelled in Belgium and the Netherlands due to protest (source).

What if one person took issue with one of my favourite bands and had them cancelled? That very well could have happened with Die Antwoord last year.

I personally have no interest in seeing Odd Future. Since Friday I have listened to a few of their tracks and they didn't really excite me. I see very little merit in it, but that is my opinion, and I am one person.

I'll admit I'm somewhat glad to see them removed from the line up - we don't need that kind of message at the Big Day Out. And much like I said two years ago about Beenie Man - they are more than welcome to play a sideshow.

But I also think Auckland Council jumped the gun on this one. If it had had time to build a grassroots movement it would probably have caused controversy, but it would have also felt legitimate. Like it was the voice of the people making the decision, not the voice of beauracracy. 

The letter was well-worded. It had a good argument - I even agree with it and believe the writer qualified to know what he is talking about. But it was also the opinion of one man - one man who I don't believe to be a patron of the Big Day Out. Maybe the message in the music is awful, but ultimately I think that's for the community and fans to decide - not some councilwoman armed with a well written letter.

Further Reading
If you're interested in this issue, I'd recommend checking out one (or all) of the following:

4 comments:

  1. Thank you very much for the link - and to Simon's post, which I disagree with on many points but which was well-written and argued.

    I'm getting even more concerned by Cr. Sandra Coney's role in this whole affair, because the more I dig the harder it is not to come to the conclusion she acted entirely off her own bat. Nor do I think it's acceptable for an unelected CEO of a council-own company responsible for managing a LOT of Auckland's cultural infrastructure to be doing shit like this without a very clear, openly arrived at and debated mandate from all our elected representatives.

    Cr. Coney is not a club booker, she is a civil servant and public space in public ownership is not her private fifedom.

    Doesn't mean I like Odd Future on any level, but I'm pretty sure there's many people who would feel the same about shall we say, more "confrontational" elements of GLBT culture.

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  2. It's not often you and I would agree, but on this one I am tempted to say I do.

    At first on hearing about this I was quite pleased, but on further thinking I began to be quite confused as to how it actually occurred. Despite my thoughts on Odd Future, I have a real issue with a single elected official being able to dictate the lineup of the Big Day Out - and despite healthy discussions with friends, no one has yet been able to sway that concern.

    Ultimately, I believe it's a good thing that they have been removed from the bill, but I'm still not convinced the method by which it happened is of no concern. Much like the Beenie Man saga, it sets a precedent, and while I encourage public protest to uphold civic values, I don't encourage this being the decision of one person, because no matter how I look at it, all I can see is self-appointed censorship.

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  3. Welcome to what I had to go through a decade ago with one individual who had a vendetta against the films I showed in my film festival. Just one well written complaint started an avalanche.

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  4. I was working in movies at the time - I remember that very, very well. It sucks.

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