As I've been arguing for awhile, a "Silent Boycott" from SB 1070 is a serious concern -- it's not that people will put out press releases condemning our state for a law that probably won't go into effect in any meaningful way, it's that bands will quietly route their tour around Arizona and convention planners will take their business elsewhere with nary a word on the subject to avoid controversy.
Kimber Lanning, owner of Stinkweeds record store and the moving force behind Arizona Local First says a group she's involved with, the Association of Independent Media Stores (AIMS), came damned close to doing that very thing.
"Six months ago, the organizers were considering boycotting Arizona, but we convinced them to come by outlining several concerts that would be a tribute to our Latino culture and heritage, which they are all very excited to see," she wrote in a statement posted to her Silverplatter.info Facebook page.
Turns out Calexico saved that thing. The Tucson-based Ameri-Mexi-cana act, which Lanning describes as "my favorite Arizona band of all time - and that's saying a lot since I've been in this business for 25 years" is the headline act in Lannings bid to wow visiting concertgoers with the less xenophobic side of Arizona.
"They do a wonderful job combining indie rock with Mariachi and their live show is simply amazing. We are doing the show at Corona Ranch, which if you haven't been is truly a hidden gem here in town - at the base of South Mountain, it's everything we are proud of here in Arizona. Opening the show will be Sergio Mendoza with Salvador Duran and Mariachi Pasion," she says.
I talked to Calexico singer Joey Burns last week and from what he says this will indeed be a can't miss show -- he's promising several surprise covers and expects some of Sergio's Orkesta to help the band create the gorgeous textures that make their records such a treat.
But the really interesting things here is how Lanning parlayed their golden reputation with record store geeks and open-minded souls into keeping this convention. As she told Ed Masley over at The Arizona Republic a few days ago:
"It was right at the time that Zack de la Rocha was organizing the boycott and these guys were like, 'It just seems like the wrong environment for us to confirm a convention there. We don't want to send the wrong message to the rest of the world that, "Hey, we support this,' " she says. "You remember how many bands were boycotting? And this is all industry people, so they were getting barraged with 'Don't go to Arizona.' "
So she's bringing out the mariachis and the flamenco dancers and Calexico.
As the Republic reported, it worked to convince Eric Levin, who owns Criminal Records in Atlanta.
"We could have avoided the controversy at the time by just putting Kimber off a year, but we felt why should some misguided politician stop a celebration of Stinkweeds?," he said. "And as we started to learn more about the situation, how really nasty it was, the manipulation and the governor's lack of wisdom and that weird sheriff, that's not what we think of when we think of Arizona, that kind of craziness... Why not support the indie businesses in this city that have always been there doing good work? Why should they suffer because of some idiots?"
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So here's Kimber's pitch: "I am asking all of my friends to please, please grab your partner, your family and friends, and come help us celebrate Arizona heritage with our guests from around the country. Calexico, as you may know, is very, very close to Gabby Giffords, and this will be their first appearance after the horrors in Tucson. We need to come together as Arizonans to celebrate and to heal. If you only see one show this year, please let this be the one."
I'll add this: Kimber is right in that this show will do a world of good for Arizona's image and that it will help a good cause. From a political standpoint, it's golden. But it's also going to be a hell of a show. When Calexico plays here it's always special -- see our 2009 Best Of Phoenix issue. This will probably be the best concert-going experience offered in town this year; you're a fool if you miss it.