North by Northeast music festival has decided to cancel the free, all-ages Action Bronson concert set initially to happen in Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square after a week of controversy.
The free concert, which was scheduled for June 21st, was subject to an online petition, which was started by Erica Shiner, who sought towards getting the concert cancelled. In the text of the petition, Shiner says Bronson “glorifies gang-raping and murdering women” in his music, especially in his song “Consensual Rape” and the video for “Brunch”. The petition, which argues that letting the show happen would be similar to turning a “blind eye to rape culture and violence against women,” has 37,832 signatures in just three days.
John Tory, Toronto Mayor, spoke publicly about the show as well. Even though story said it was not “place to decide sort of what is art and what is music,” he thought that “this kind of performance to take place certainly in a public space was not consistent with our policies.” The mayor went on to say that Bronson’s lyrics were “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.”
Organizers of NXNE had originally come to the defense of Bronson, saying that 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.” Organizers wrote that Bronson was in a similar show in the same venue in 2012 with Killer Mike, Ghostface Killah, and Raekwon also on the bill. After the “significant number of Torontonians” who advocated their opposition of the show, NXNE have decided after all to cancel the gig.
The festival still hopes that Action Bronson will still perform there in a ticketed venue and shared a level of uneasiness about stopping the Yonge-Dundas Square performance. “We remain fundamentally committed to presenting this artist on a Toronto stage,” NXNE 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 of the event continued with “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.”
The full NXNE statement is 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”