When SoundStrike launched its boycott of Arizona music venues after the passing of the controversial SB 1070, fans were torn. Many agreed with the organization's goals to use a strong commercial hand to help spur voters into repealing the illegal immigration bill. But others wondered if artists such as Rage Against the Machine and Conor Oberst (who recently performed a SoundStrike benefit at the Palladium) were marginalizing a potentially sympathetic community of artists, venue owners, promoters and fans.
Artists For Action, a new organization founded by Arizona-based musicians and concert promoters, believed the latter.
“We understand it and we’re sympathetic to their goals,” said David Slutes, the entertainment director at Tuscon’s Club Congress and a co-founder of Artists For Action. “We’re not against SoundStrike, but we think there’s a better way, and that playing the state is more effective.”
Whereas SoundStrike holds live music hostage to hopefully spur Arizona voters to repeal the bill, Artists For Action sees concerts as a potentially rich source of voter-registration drives and other activism. Founded by Slutes and Calexico singer Joey Burns (who plays the Hollywood Bowl Sunday as part of the Viva Mexico! show with Ozomatli), the group held a successful voter-registration drive show at Tempe’s Marquee Theater in August and could be a strong voice in the effort to repeal the bill.
“I believe that while an economic boycott might make a difference to the state officials and financial institutions, a cultural/artistic boycott will have quite the opposite effect," the Tuscon-based Burns said. “The same legislators and governor could return in the next session and would likely continue to pass equally [or more] offensive laws. Artists are in the unique position to use their voices to mobilize and educate their fans. Music fans in Arizona are starving for this kind of motivation.”