Five Irish bands made a joint statement at SXSW last night (March 14), explaining their decision to pull their official shows at this year’s event.

The group, made up of members of Cardinals, Chalk, Enola Gay, Gurriers and NewDad, gathered at downtown Austin’s Velveeta Room to show solidarity with Palestine amid the ongoing war in Gaza. This came after it was revealed last week that the US Army was a “super sponsor” of the music, film, culture and tech festival as well as defence contractor RTX (Raytheon), which has supplied weapons to Israel.

The venue was previously set to host the Music For Ireland showcase, while as per a report from Nialler9, Belfast’s Enola Gay were booked to play a separate, UK-led event via PRS funding. According to US Today, more than 80 acts and panellists have pulled out of the event so far, with other names including Lambrini Girls, Rachel Chinouriri and Scowl. By midweek, all Irish bands had pulled out of SXSW in solidarity.

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Pierce Callaghan of Dublin noise-punks Gurriers led the speech, while fellow drummer Fiachra Parslow – who performs in NewDad – took to the stage in a vintage Palestine football shirt. Before starting, they thanked those who had congregated at the Velveeta Room and then opened the floor to questions or thoughts from any attendees of Palestinian heritage.

“To be clear, we as Music From Ireland bands are not partaking in any official SXSW shows. We stand in complete solidarity with Palestine and others who have spoken out against and boycotted SXSW,” Callaghan began.

“Sponsorship of the festival from defence contractors and those sending arms to destroy innocent lives is an act we find disgusting and reprehensible. We as Irish people have a lot of solidarity with the people of Palestine as we share a history of occupation and oppression by colonialist countries.”

Continuing, he referenced the Dunnes Stores strike, which began in Dublin in 1984 and lasted for three years after shop worker Mary Manning was suspended for refusing to handle South African fruit in protest of the country’s apartheid policies. “This one act triggered a blanket boycott in Ireland which was mirrored worldwide. If we could all band together then and make a real change we definitely can now,” he said.

“It is inherently wrong to taint the celebration of art with links to the genocide going on in Palestine. This situation is so much bigger than us as bands, it is so much bigger than music, art, politics. The excuses given by SXSW have been pathetic and reprehensible. There is no excuse for supporting the ongoing genocide in Palestine.

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“We hope by taking this stand that festivals will rethink their sponsorship choices and who they choose to give a platform to, and keep arms contractors out of the world of music.

“We call on all of you to stand up and make your voices heard. Silence in the face of oppression is siding with the oppressor,” he added, before adding an Irish translation.

Cardinals. Credit: Emilyn Cardona

The bands will reconvene later today (March 15) at the city’s Flamingo Canteena venue to re-share their statement.

They are part of a larger collective of Music For Ireland acts who refused to perform at SXSW this year, alongside Sprints, Soda Blonde, Gavin James, Reevah, Robert Grace, Mick Flannery and Kneecap – the majority of whom have cancelled their trips to Austin altogether.

Earlier this week, Texas governor Greg Abbott took to X (formerly Twitter) to write: “Bands pull out of SXSW over US army Sponsorship. Bye. Don’t come back. Austin remains the HQ for the Army Futures Command. San Antonio is Military City USA. We are proud of the US military in Texas. If you don’t like it, don’t come here.”

SXSW also released a statement regarding all of the bands and artists who have been pulling out of the festival. Taking to social media, they wrote: “SXSW does not agree with Governor Abbott.”

“We are an organization that welcomes diverse viewpoints. Music is the soul of SXSW, and it has long been our legacy. We fully respect the decision these artists made to exercise their right to free speech.”

SXSW continued: “Across the globe, we are witnessing unspeakable tragedies, the rise of repressive regimes, and the increasing spread of violent conflict. It’s more crucial than ever that we come together to solve these greater humanitarian issues.”

Explaining its sponsorship with the US army, SXSW wrote: “The defense industry has historically been a proving ground for many of the systems we rely on today. These institutions are often leaders in emerging technologies, and we believe it’s better to understand how their approach will impact our lives.”

“The Army’s sponsorship is part of our commitment to bring forward ideas that shape our world. In regard to Collins Aerospace, they participated this year as a sponsor of two SXSW Pitch categories, giving entrepreneurs visibility and funding for potentially game-changing work.”

SXSW concluded: “We have and will continue to support human rights for all. The situation in the Middle East is tragic, and it illuminates the heightened importance of standing together against injustice.”

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