NXNE cancels free Action Bronson show in response to petition
Photo by Eric Tra
After a week of heated controversy, North by Northeast music festival has decided to cancel a free, all-ages Action Bronson concert originally set to take place in Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square.
Scheduled for June 21st, the free show became the target of an online petition started by Erica Shiner, who sought to have the concert axed. In the petition’s text, Shiner claimed Bronson “glorifies gang-raping and murdering women” in his lyrics, specifically in his track “Consensual Rape” and the video for “Brunch”. The petition, which also argued that allowing the show would be akin to turning a “blind eye to rape culture and violence against women,” received 37,832 signatures in just three days.
Toronto Mayor John Tory also spoke publicly against the show. Though he said it’s not his “place to decide sort of what is art and what is music,” he believed “this kind of performance to take place certainly in a public space was not consistent with our policies.” He went on to classify Bronson’s lyrics as “astonishing and very disturbing. Again, it’s not my place to decide what music is, but I certainly registered with [the petitioners] that we just can’t have that sort of thing happening in public spaces.”
NXNE organizers originally came out in defense of Bronson, saying they believe “each and every one of these artists have the right to express their views through music, but those views belong to them and them alone.” They noted that Bronson was part of a similar show in the same location in 2012 on a bill that included Killer Mike, Ghostface Killah, and Raekwon. However, following the “significant number of Torontonians” who expressed their objection to the show NXNE ultimately decided to cancel the performance.
Still, NXNE hopes to have Action Bronson perform at the festival in a ticketed venue, and expressed an uneasiness about having to stop the Yonge-Dundas Square event. “We remain fundamentally committed to presenting this artist on a Toronto stage,” the festival said in a statement. “We are not moving the Action show because we believe in censoring him or any other artists. In fact, we find the limiting of artistic expression distasteful. When artistic expression is limited, freedom and the evolution of ideas is often the casualty.”
Organizers went to say, “We hope that this series of events does not foster some type of artistic chill in Toronto and its public spaces. Yonge-Dundas Square must remain a dynamic place where many viewpoints are expressed not just culturally but also at political events and rallies staged there.”
Read the full NXNE statement below:
“We at Northby Northeast (NXNE) are very proud of our 20 plus years relationship with the people of the City of Toronto. And for almost ten years we’ve shared Yonge-Dundas Square with you to present free, all ages shows open to the public. YDS is the city’s space and as such we are obliged to listen to how the city and community want it used. A significant number of Torontonians have indicated their desire to have Action Bronson not perform at the Square. As annual guests in this space we feel we must accede to the strong wishes of the community and honour their input.
As a result, we will not be presenting Action Bronson at Yonge-Dundas Square but, hopefully we will still be presenting Action Bronson as part of Northby. We remain fundamentally committed to presenting this artist on a Toronto stage. We are not moving the Action show because we believe in censoring him or any other artists. In fact, we find the limiting of artistic expression distasteful. When artistic expression is limited, freedom and the evolution of ideas is often the casualty.
Hopefully, Action Bronson will accept our invitation to play at another, ticketed venue in the city so the public can decide for themselves if his work has merit. We booked Bronson, in part, because of his latest excellent disc, Mr. Wonderful.
We hope that this series of events does not foster some type of artistic chill in Toronto and its public spaces. Yonge-Dundas Square must remain a dynamic place where many viewpoints are expressed not just culturally but also at political events and rallies staged there.
We are heartened by the community engagement that has been taking place around this YDS show. This debate continues an important conversation about violence against women and its depiction in art and culture that is long overdue. We salute all of those who fight this battle and we would encourage everyone who has signed the petition or been engaged by this conversation to commit themselves personally to continuing the fight against violence against women. We at Northby pledge to continue being part of this discussion with the intent to help act as agents of change.
The Directors of North by Northeast”