Sound Off

Sound Strike: The Worst Way to Show Opposition to SB 1070

Sound Strike, the movement in which musicians boycott Arizona as a statement of opposition to the state's anti-illegal immigrant law, SB 1070, is still going strong. As we reported in recent months, acts like Maroon 5 and My Chemical Romance, who had concerts booked in the Valley, canceled them as part of the ongoing strike. 

But other acts, like Latin rock band Los Lobos, decided to play here anyway. The band initially supported Sound Strike, but their decision to play at Talking Stick Resort on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian reservation on Cinco de Mayo and also at the Rialto Theatre in Tucson upset a lot of folks. As our colleague Stephen Lemons reported, pro-immigrant human rights organization Coalicion de Derechos Humanos declined the band's offer to have a table set up at the band's Tucson show.

Sound Strike's organizers and supporters seem adamant that the best way to make a difference in Arizona is for artists to skip the state on their tours and release statements about how shitty Arizona's politics are. I think the only way is for them to show some real brass and come here, just like Lady Gaga, Margaret Cho, Los Lobos, and countless other acts have done in spite of the strike. For an organization like Coalicion de Derechos Humanos to decline an invitation to a Los Lobos show in Arizona -- where they could have advocated for immigrant rights, educated people about the evils of SB 1070, and grown their numbers -- shows how divisive and counterproductive Sound Strike can be.

Like many music fans in Arizona, I totally disagree with SB 1070. It's oppressive and tyrannical. It is also not a voter-approved bill. It was pushed and enacted solely by state legislators. If the load of crap that is SB 1070 had been affirmed by we, the people (not wholly represented here by they, the lawmakers), I might think Sound Strike makes a real statement against racism and intolerance here. But as it is, Sound Strike does nothing but punish like-minded music fans, choke off local non-profit venues, and make artists look self-righteous. And while Sound Strike has made some strides (particularly by booking shows to raise money for awareness), it seems like there's been more finger wagging than high-fives going around lately. I think Sound Strike's approach is all wrong, and the strike is becoming a source of contention among people who mostly, when it comes down to it, share the same opposition to oppression. 

Those involved with Sound Strike seem to think it's going to have such an impact on our economy that state legislators will take notice and dump 1070. I've got news for them: that's not going to happen. Governor Jan Brewer could probably give two shits about whether or not Maroon 5 will be playing one of our arenas. Half the time, she's working too hard on things like trying to form a coherent sentence.

To the music artists who have joined Sound Strike: There's a better way for you to show your opposition to SB 1070 and raise awareness for immigrant rights. Come here and get on your platform. Stop punting from press releases and make it real.

Take a cue from Lady Gaga and comedian Margaret Cho, both of whom performed in Phoenix last year, despite continually being urged to boycott the state. During her sold-out show at US Airways Center last July, Lady Gaga told the audience, "You really think us dumb fucking pop stars are going to collapse the state economy? I'll tell you what we have to do about SB 1070: We have to be active. I will not cancel my show. I will scream and I will yell."

​Cho did one better, donating all the proceeds from her September performance at Comerica Theatre (then Dodge Theatre) to Puente and Tonatierra, two local immigration rights groups. "A lot of people are saying 'Boycott Phoenix,'" Cho said from the stage. "I still wanted to come, and I decided it could benefit a good cause. This country was built by immigrants, for immigrants, and everybody is welcome."

That is the way to truly make a difference -- march fearlessly into a war zone, advocate, and donate to the cause. It has a lot more impact than a band simply scratching Phoenix or Tucson from its tour itinerary and releasing some statement that basically says they're too good to come play here. That's the easy way out. If bands really want to show their opposition to SB 1070, then they must come here, cross the picket line, advocate, and most importantly, put their money where their mouths are. If you don't want to help pump money into Arizona's economy, then donate all the money from your Arizona shows to the non-profit groups here that are also fighting SB 1070. Because as noble as Sound Strike may seem, I don't see it really making a difference. Arizona legislators are not taking notice, because the battle hasn't been brought here. Not enough musicians come here to raise money for pro-immigration groups and rally fans for the cause. Instead, many fans feel alienated -- a feeling that gets more pronounced as Sound Strike appears more elitist and ineffectual.

Sound Strike has received its fair share of criticism, and hasn't taken any of it very well. recently published an article positing that the only thing Sound Strike has done is punish Arizona music fans and screw non-profit venues. They also mentioned allegations that Sound Strike founder (and former Rage Against the Machine front man) Zack de la Rocha blocked Arizona musicians and promoters from appearing on the SXSW panel on SB 1070. And former Phoenix New Times music editor Martin Cizmar, who blogged about Sound Strike many times, claims Sound Strike was blocking music journalists  -- or anyone who questioned the movement's effectiveness -- from its Facebook page.

Sound Strike project manager Javier Gonzalez vigorously defended Sound Strike in his response to the article, mentioning that Sound Strike artists like Ozomatli and Tigres del Norte have played benefit shows to promote activism and voter registration, as well as raise aid for the victims of the Tucson shooting that seriously injured Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Stephen Lemons wrote in New Times' Feathered Bastard blog that the arguments of those who disagreed with the Sound Strike were "pathetic, twaddling attacks."

It's a shame that somehow, it's starting to seem like anyone who disagrees with the alleged effectiveness of Sound Strike is somehow deemed the enemy, or worse, a supporter of SB 1070. That's the same kind of "You're either with us or against us" mentality George W. Bush propagated, when he was trying to justify another oppressive law, the Patriot Act.

Make no mistake: the majority of music fans in Arizona, especially those who'd buy tickets to see bands like Los Lobos or My Chemical Romance, are not supporters of SB 1070. So rather than make them feel like they're being robbed of concerts because our legislators suck, more bands need to come and mobilize fans in a real grass roots movement that could make a real difference.

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea