All 12 Irish artists invited to play official showcases at the SXSW music festival have withdrawn in solidarity with Palestine

NewDad, Kneecap, Sprints
(Image credit: Burak Cingi/Redferns | Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images |Burak Cingi/Redferns)

Sprints, Kneecap, NewDad, Chalk and every other Irish artist booked to perform official showcases at this week's SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas have withdrawn from the event, after it was revealed that the US army and defence contractors which supply weapons to Israel are among its sponsors. 

A significant number of artists have now dropped out of the prestigious festival, which has long been a showcase for the world's best new bands, as a protest against the continuing bombing of Gaza. 

On March 10, acclaimed Belfast hip-hop trio Kneecap announced their intention to cancel their scheduled gigs at the event, stating that their decision was taken to “highlight the unacceptable deep links the festival has to weapons companies and the U.S. military who at this very moment are enabling a genocide and famine against a trapped population.”

“We cannot in good conscience attend an arts festival that has 'The US Army' as a 'Super Sponsor' and and is platforming RTX (formerly Raytheon), Collins Aerospace, and BAE Systems, the very companies selling the weapons that have murdered 31,000 Palestinians, over 21,000 of them women and children.”

Kneecap also recently expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people during their appearance on Ireland's The Late Late Show, and took out a billboard in Times Square, New York, featuring the words "Let Gaza Live' and 'Ceasefire Now'. 

Now every other artist from the North of Ireland and Republic of Ireland invited to play the festival has joined the protest. The artists in question are Sprints, NewDad, Chalk, Gurriers, Cardinals, Enola Gay, Soda Blonde, Gavin James, Robert Grace, Mick Flannery and Conchur.

No bands will now play the official Music From Ireland showcases.

Leading Irish music blogger Nialler9 reports, “In lieu of showcases, the artists will make a joint statement at the Velveeta Room at 8pm on Thursday 14th and again at the Flamingo Canteena on Friday 15th at 1pm.”

Therapy? are still booked to play the festival, telling Nialler9, “We are playing SXSW at the invitation of our record label Marshall Records and that is the only reason we are there. We were not an SXSW invitee.”

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Other acts who have cancelled their scheduled appearances at the festival include American hardcore bands Scowl and Gel, Brighton punks Lambrini Girls, and singer-songwriters Rachel Chinouriri, Squirrel Flower and Eliza McLamb.

Texan Governor Greg Abbott has responded to the protest by posting his support for the US military, telling the artists who've withdrawn, "Bye. Don't come back"

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In response, the festival’s official Instagram account posted a statement, saying “SXSW does not agree with Governor Abbott. We are an organization 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. Across the globe, we are witnessing unspeakable tragedies, the rise of repressive regimes, and the increasing spread of violent conflict. It’s more crucial than ever that we come together to solve these greater humanitarian issues.”

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.