Gruff Rhys pulls out of SXSW in protest to “the hyper violence inflicted on civilians in Gaza and beyond”

Gruff Rhys has become the latest artist to pull out of SXSW 2024 in solidarity with Palestine.

The Welsh musician, composer, producer, filmmaker and author was set to appear at this year’s instalment of South By South West, however, has now announced that he will no longer be attending in protest to the “hyper violence inflicted on” those in Gaza.

Taking to Facebook, he shared a series of statements explaining his reasons for the decision and announcing two replacement gigs during his time in Austin.

“In horror at the hyper violence inflicted on civilians in Gaza and beyond I feel the best use of my platform at the official showcases at SXSW this year is to withdraw my music,” he began. “I’m personally disappointed as I love playing music & the band is in full flow right now. I’ve played this festival many times and love it here, always having a great time immersed in its kaleidoscopic array of music and film.”

“I feel somewhat hypocritical as I’m no doubt tied in to other numerous imperfect capitalist constructs in my active and enthusiastic participation in the music industry. I do however feel this is a distinct and very sobering historical moment. And that there is value to symbolic gestures,” he added, also stating that seeing “grotesque news unfold” over recent months has changed his relationship with the media he consumes.

“I’m a musician not a politician but as a voter and participant in a democracy and given what I’m sure is a limited understanding of a complex situation, I’m still in dismay at the utter collapse of coherent diplomacy in the West that has helped facilitate unimaginable violence.

Posted by Gruff Rhys on Wednesday, March 13, 2024

“It is in that context that my decision may be a more useful one than actually making music in a venue in playing a tiny part in concentrating minds in my own country to engage with the severity of the humanitarian moment and calls for a ceasefire rather than expecting it to make any concrete difference to the people that are hurting. My wish is for peace and dignity for all people.”

Towards the end of the statement, Rhys went on to explain that while he will no longer be performing at SXSW, he will be using his time in Austin to perform two sets separate from the festival.

This included one show at a venue called Jo’s Coffee, which was held last night (March 13), and one tomorrow (March 15) at The Coral Snake. Find the full update above.

Alongside Rhys, Kneecap, Sprints, Soda Blonde, Gavin James, Robert Grace, Mick Flannery, Chalk, Gurriers, Cardinals and NewDad have all pulled out from the annual music, culture and arts showcase this year, as well as all Irish acts on the bill.

Other acts to have pulled out of the festival include Lambrini Girls’ who said they “can’t affiliate ourselves whatsoever” with the event, Scowl, Gel, Rachel Chinouriri and more.

Lambrini Girls perform during the launch of Fender’s Vintera II Series at a one-night-only revival of the Marquee club in Soho on September 20, 2023 in London, England.
Lambrini Girls perform during the launch of Fender’s Vintera II Series at a one-night-only revival of the Marquee club in Soho on September 20, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

This came after it was revealed that the US Army was a “super sponsor” of the event as well as defence contractor RTX Corporation, which has supplied weapons to Israel.

In light of the withdrawals, SXSW released a statement regarding all of the bands and artists who have been pulling out of the festival, saying: “We are an organisation 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.”

Texas governor Greg Abbott, on the other hand, took to X/Twitter to criticise those backing out of the 2024 event.

“Bands pull out of SXSW over U.S. Army Sponsorship. Bye. Don’t come back. Austin remains the HQ for the Army Futures Command,” he wrote. “San Antonio is Military City USA. We are proud of the U.S. military in Texas. If you don’t like it, don’t come here.”

Organisers of SXSW have made it clear that they do not share the stance of the Texan governor.

Explaining its sponsorship with the US Army, SXSW wrote: “The defence 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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