I am more casual admirer than devoted fan of the music of Wilco, the Chicago-based band that has been at the forefront of alternative rock for over two decades — a very impressive feat. But an off-stage decision they made this week has, at least in my eyes, cast them in a negative light. As stated on Wilco’s Facebook page:
We are canceling our May 7 show at the Murat in Indianapolis. The “Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act” feels like thinly disguised legal discrimination to us. Hope to get back to the Hoosier State someday soon, when this odious measure is repealed. Refunds available at point of purchase.
Bad move, gentlemen. Very bad.
For once you commit to a venue and an audience, the show must go on. Yes, of course, their are cancellations for illness, weather or other unforeseen circumstances, as classical music fans, especially of the operatic persuasion, know all too well. And no one should insist that performers put their lives on the line by performing in war zones, disease-ravaged areas or the like.
But this, as I see it, is a slap at Wilco’s Hoosier fans, who are being collectively punished for legislation they may or (much more likely, I suspect) may not agree with. Rather than honoring their commitment and possibly using the occasion to announce their stand and encourage the audience to take action, Wilco took the easy and, I think, unprofessional way out. I’ve already read praise for what others regard as Wilco’s “act of conscience.” Please. Fulfilling their engagement and playing for their paying audience should be at the forefront of their conscience.
Whatever you think of Indiana’s RFRA, neither it nor the opposition to it exists to provide Wilco a political platform. It’s not about you, guys. Really — what effect does Wilco think their cancellation will have? And who will be the parties most affected, most inconvenienced and, frankly, most pissed off? Their venue and their fans, that’s who.
During my 35-year radio career, there were obviously times I was unable to perform, including one lengthy illness. And of course I took scheduled vacations, though never as much as provided by my employer.
But if I was supposed to be on, I went on. I went on after 9-11, Sandy Hook and other disasters. I went on when I didn’t feel great, and during periods of severe depression. I went on when there was two feet of fresh snow on the ground, the roads were nearly impassible, and I had such bad gout in both feet that I had to practically f***ing crawl in the snow from the parking lot to the radio station.
And none of this makes me a hero. If I’m going to brag about anything, it’s that I was a professional, and acted like one. I didn’t like that day’s news headlines, or a decision my station’s management made? Too bad. That wasn’t the audience’s problem, and to snub them for my own personal reasons would have been unprofessional. The show must go on. For you too, Wilco.