Why Kimya Dawson, Killer Mike, And Other Bands Are Standing Up To SXSW Right Now

An old clause in artists’ contracts leads to political outrage—and a commitment to progress

Brandon Welchez of Crocodiles. Image courtesy of photographer Kristina Bakrevski

More than 500 musicians were scheduled to perform at the popular media, film, and music festival South by Southwest (SXSW) kicking off next week in Austin, Texas. Then, on Thursday, Felix Walworth of New York City-based band Told Slant tweeted an image of an unusual clause in his contract—apparently indicating that the festival may refer international artists to immigration authorities for playing unofficial shows. By the end of the day, over 40 artists including Kimya Dawson, Killer Mike, and Ted Leo, had signed an open letter calling on SXSW to “drop this clause from their contract, and cease any collusion with immigration officials that puts performers in danger,” especially “in light of the recent attacks on immigrant communities.”

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The Fascinating Secret History Of Protest Fraud

From FBI stool pigeons to rumored alt-right agitators at Berkeley, those who fear progress have long undermined social movements from the inside.

On a Wednesday night in February, I watched in frustration as NBC News fretted about the “out of control” protest at the UC-Berkeley Campus, led by “anarchists” against Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopolus, who’d been invited to speak by the Berkeley College Republicans. Though the fire and the broken windows were alarming to some, I was more discouraged that the coverage essentially absolved the person who’d fanned the flames of hatred in the first place: Yiannopolus, known for his racist and sexist Twitter harassment of actress Leslie Jones, regressive articles about capping the amount of women allowed to study science, and new scholarship fund supporting that long-suffering class of Americans, white men.

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After Ghost Ship, Cities And Artists Clash Over DIY Venues

The Oakland warehouse fire hasn’t stopped a creative underclass from finding artistic kinship—and a place to call home—in so-called “unsafe” spaces

It’s been a surreal week for Bay Area musician Mykee Ramen, who lost a friend in the fire that killed 36 during an electronic music show at Ghost Ship—an Oakland warehouse that had been converted into an underground artist collective/living space/concert venue. Ramen’s former housemate Sam “Peaches” was also in attendance and has been placed in a medically induced coma with severe lung burns. Then, a few days ago, Ramen watched in horror as Tom Butt, mayor of Richmond, California, where Ramen owns the all-ages DIY venue and living space Burnt Ramen, said on national television that Ramen’s venue would be “the next Ghost Ship.”

“The mayor called us out by our address, and it’s been a media frenzy around our house lately,” says Ramen. Though Burnt Ramen has never shied away from its rough-and-tumble reputation—its website features a photo of a bloody toilet and the tongue in cheek tagline “an unsafe place for all ages”—the venue now faces a fire inspection on December 16. Ramen says his housemates, many of whom are mourning partners and friends who were lost in the fire, are frustrated with the camera crews still parked outside their home.

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