We're not going to come out and say that the Sound Strike -- the commercial boycott of Arizona by a group of bands, musicians, and artists launched in May, 2010 -- is over, but we're not not saying that the Sound Strike is over.
Chicago punk band Rise Against, one of the Sound Strike's marquee names, has announced two dates in Arizona: September 27 at the Orpheum in Flagstaff, and September 28 at Tempe Beach Park. The band writes on its site:
"Boycotts are an age-old expression of protest; a tool that has shaped our country in the past and will continue to shape it in the future. Boycotts are responsible for some of America's proudest moments; from the American Revolution to the civil rights movement. When Arizona passed an anti-immigration law called SB 1070, many of us saw this as a dark day in American history . . . Our band and other artists worldwide proudly joined The Sound Strike, an artists boycott of Arizona. Many of you understood the gravity of this decision and stood with us. Others were split, citing the fact that the citizens of AZ had nothing to do with SB 1070, so it was unfair to punish them. Some believed the solution was to engage Arizona by coming and playing rather than avoiding the state altogether. We took this all into consideration and truly value your insight as always. But we followed our gut, and believed that we could not carry on business-as-usual when so much is at stake. We took a stand, not to punish our fans, but as an expression of protest that harkens back to the days of Rosa Parks and the civil rights era."
Sound Strike organizer Javier Gonzalez says that shows like this represent a shift in Sound Strike's focus:
"There are two specific changes -- one, we're not going to badger anyone to not play there commercially, and two, we're going to actually try to get people down there in a more concerted effort. We're not going to do commercial shows, because there are bands that don't want to do any commercial shows, but we're not going to get in the way of them. We're going to get people down there -- if this means that someone has a creative way of doing something down there, we're open to it."
Rise Against's stop in Flagstaff will be a benefit show, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project (Update from Luckyman Shows: 100 percent of the ticket sales after show expenses and local/state taxes will be donated). Gonzalez says the national implications of SB 1070 and similar laws around the country have to be considered. He also says that when the commercial boycott started to lose steam, it became apparent that a change in focus was necessary. "[We're saying] maybe what we need to do is have a whole lot more shit going on [in Arizona]," he says. "If some of it is commercial, fine."
Rise Against cites positive change in Arizona in the wake of SB 1070 and the Sound Strike, including the recall of SB 1070 author and former state Senate president Russell Pearce and federal action against Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The band says: "This issue is bigger than one state, and we will take this fight nationwide. So along with The Sound Strike, we are ending our formal boycott of Arizona."
"We'd be foolish to say we repealed 1070," Gonzalez says. "That obviously didn't happen. That would have been the ideal case, but in terms of awareness, and pop culture talking about it, it's been a fantastic benefit to the overall cause. The media has covered it from different angles, musicians have addressed it, and that's a key element to [reaching] younger people. [But] the messages are mixed, there are different strategies, doors are opening up. It's the right time to look at some of these ideas that frankly, people have had all along."
Gonzalez isn't comfortable declaring the Sound Strike boycott to be over, stating some bands still will maintain a commercial ban on visiting the state, but he acknowledges that the boycott "isn't really what people are focused on right now," and that he would like to see more attention drawn to the ethnic studies in Tucson and local human rights groups like Puente and the Florence Project.
As for Rise Against, they've got plenty of love for their fans in Arizona:
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"We love our fans in Arizona, and we appreciate you who traveled outside the state to see us play nearby in the last couple years. I still remember our first show in AZ in the basement of the Nile Theater. It was the best show of that tour thus far, we had no idea so many people knew our songs. It was then we fell in love with the punk community in AZ and looked forward to each return. Whether it's been Warped Tour, Scrappy's, shows at the Marquee, or some of the great radio festivals we've done in the area, we always know we are in for a great show. Thank you for being a part of our journey, and we look forward to continuing it when we return this fall for not one, but two AZ shows on our upcoming tour."