Photo Credit: Raymond Flotat
Following last week’s news that Italian post-punk group Soviet Soviet had been detained and deported, more artists are claiming that they have not been allowed to enter the country for SXSW. Soviet Soviet released a statement that explains that the group was not allowed to enter the country due to having an improper visa. Today, Spin is reporting that more artists have found themselves unable to enter the country due to issues with their visa or paperwork. With the current administration’s focus on “protecting” the borders of the United States from outsiders and the global magnet that SXSW is known as being, it’s not surprising this year has seen several artists unable to enter the country.
Soviet Soviet were denied entry by the Custom and Border Protection (CBP) because of two additional shows they were slated to play outside of SXSW. It’s complicated, but generally speaking the reason (helpful explanation by NPR) they were deported and their status revoked is this:
Because those two non-SXSW shows charged admission, despite the band not being paid for their performance, officials found these to not fall under what is being colloquially referred to as the “showcase exception.” Despite the fact that loads of tickets are sold to non-music professionals and SXSW serves as a de-facto music festival, it is technically a “trade show.” While that notion is certainly debatable, even more tenuous is Soviet Soviet’s claim that the pair of unpaid, non-SXSW shows also fall under the “showcase exception.”
In fact, to bring it full circle back to the controversy generated from language in SXSW’s artist-agreement, immigration attorneys state that Soviet Soviet did exactly what the clause was cautioning artists against doing (though to be clear, SXSW has nothing to do with these artists being denied entry into the United States):
Meanwhile, other artists are being denied entry for other reasons, most of which are very technical. NPR reports that Yussef Dayes has announced his inability to enter the States. Dayes is one half of the London-based jazz duo Yussef Kamaal. According to a statement that was released by the musician’s label, Brownswood Recordings, his status under ESTA, which is a visa-waiver program, was revoked by authorities “at the 11th hour.”
Dayes also performs with his brothers Ahed and Kareem in another group called United Vibrations. The other two brothers in the Dayes family had their statuses revoked, meaning neither United Vibration nor Yussef Kamaal would be able to perform at SXSW this year. United Vibrations also released a statement.
Both the statement from United Vibrations and Brownswood Recordings insinuate that the reason for the status revocation is based upon the “religion and race” of the Dayes brothers.
— United Vibrations (@UnitedVibration) March 13, 2017
— CLASH (@clash_music) March 13, 2017
Transcontinental post-hardcore outfit Massive Scar Era (based in Vancouver and Cairo) has also indicated through a video that members of the group had been denied entry for their performance at SXSW. Around 1:30 into the video, the band’s leader Cherine Amr states “We were officially denied from going into the US.”
She elaborates in the video that the border officers felt that the B1 visa the band had to enter the country and perform at the Austin, TX festival was not appropriate. Instead, they felt that the members of Massive Scar Era should have a P-2 visa as opposed to the B-1 tourist visa they had. The issue smaller and up-and-coming bands face in this requirement is that obtaining a P-2 visa (which is for “aliens of extraordinary ability in the arts”) can cost thousands of dollars, require mountains of paperwork, reviews and recommendations. Needless to say, most up-and-coming bands that are booked for SXSW don’t have that kind of money, time or resources readily available. Spin posits that Massive Scar Era, like Soviet Soviet, had several non-SXSW tour dates planned during their trip to the US, which is likely the reason the CBP officials also declined their status.
The third artist that has revealed to be denied entry into the United States for SXSW is an EDM producer from Denmark known as ELOQ. He stated on Twitter today that he had been detained for around 23 hours after being denied entry at the airport.
craziest 24 hrs ever. Not going to SXSW, but back to Denmark. I been denied entry. even though i was informed by sxsw i had the right visa
— DIAMONDS OUT NOW (@yo_ELOQ) March 13, 2017
@yo_ELOQ ive been handcuffed and detained in a small very bright room plus a very unpleasant jail cell for 23 hours.. thats a first!
— DIAMONDS OUT NOW (@yo_ELOQ) March 13, 2017
Most of these artists seem to have made a mistake or two in their approach to gaining entry into the United States. In years past, these issues were likely overlooked or given a pass. A common thread in most of these cases is that the artists believe they had filed the proper paperwork and had gained assurance from SXSW they were cleared for entry to the United States. It just goes to show how the country has shifted under the watch of a new, more protectionist regime and that artists, promoters and other music industry professionals will have to adjust.