BRISBANE, Australia — Tropical F*ck Storm has found themselves in the center of an altogether different type of storm after the experimental rock band pulled out of its Sydney Festival commitments in protest to the event’s sponsorship arrangement with the Israel Embassy.
As the annual event kicked off Thursday (Jan. 6), the award-winning Melbourne band called out organizers to “do the right thing and fix the problem they created,” pointing to a A$20,000 sponsorship deal which could see participating artists “become the targets of online harassment, bullying, smear campaigns, ridiculous accusations, misrepresentations and abuse from total strangers,” an official statement reads.
According to The Guardian, the Embassy of Israel in Canberra subsidized Decadance, a performance devised by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin and Tel Aviv’s Batsheva Dance Company, and co-presented by Sydney Dance Company.
At the time of posting, Sydney Festival “stated they have no intention to refund the money or sever the sponsorship relationship,” the TFS statement continues, “even though the shit sandwich they’ve landed every billed artist in is blatantly obvious to them.”
(the Israeli Embassy, who donated a paltry $20,000 to some dance group).
Rather than immediately announce online that we’d jump ship, we thought we’d actually try to do something in the real world for everyone involved and try to encourage Sydney Festival to do the right
— tropical fuck storm (@tfs_theband) January 6, 2022
Founded by The Drones bandmates Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin, the band canceled its two scheduled appearances at the fest, citing a “complete lack of respect and integrity towards the artists billed” from the annual event and its partners.
A boycott has gathered pace since December 2021, with TFS one of 30-something featured artists, businesses, and speakers taking a stand. “I’ve made the decision to withdraw from Sydney Festival,” writes Brisbane artist Hope D, who was booked to perform at the 2022 edition. “I stand with the Palestinian people and fully support the freedom of Palestine. All tickets will be refunded and I’ll be back in Eora/Sydney very soon.”
TFS, whose Deep States last year won the ARIA Award for best hard rock or heavy metal album, is one of the highest-profile contemporary music acts to pull out.
As the storm brewed, some 120 entertainment industry figures signed an open letter, which argues that “organizers of the boycott intentionally misrepresent the truth about Israel and make provocative statements.”
Published by the Creative Community For Peace, the letter is signed by KISS’s Gene Simmons; songwriter Diane Warren; Aaron Bay-Schuck, CEO/Co-Chairman Warner Records and others.
“We, the undersigned, believe the cultural boycott movement of the Sydney Festival is an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition,” the letter continues. “While we all may have differing opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the best path to peace, we all agree that a cultural boycott is not the answer.”
It reads, “While art can reflect politics, and artists can choose to reflect their politics in their own art, art should never become subservient to politics and artists and cultural events should never be forced to be politicized.”
Organizers of the festival have repeatedly backed its controversial decision to push on with its production of Decadance. Earlier, on Tuesday, the Sydney Festival board issued a second statement, noting “all funding agreements for the current Festival – including for Decadance – will be honored, and the performances will proceed.”
At the same time, its statement continues, “the board has also determined it will review its practices in relation to funding from foreign governments or related parties.”
The Sydney Festival is due to wrap up Jan. 30.