Friday, July 19, 2013

PROTEST? Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett Weighs In On The Fillmore Silver Spring's Anti-LGBT Concert with Molotov

UPDATE: The controversy over The Fillmore's upcoming "Molotov" concert is growing, as the story was picked up by The Washington Post's Bill Turque in an article last night (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett has asked the Fillmore Silver Spring to cancel next month’s booking of the Mexican rap-metal band Molotov because of homophobic lyrics in one of its songs. “I have serious concerns about this booking,” Leggett wrote in a letter Thursday to Stephanie Steele, general manager at the Fillmore. “I am personally offended.”

The title of the 1997 song is a Spanish slur against gay men.

Equality Maryland, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights group, said that if the booking is not canceled it might stage an information picket at the venue. “A lot of people don’t realize that lyrics are not harmless and that they impact people,” said Carrie Evans, executive director of the organization. “I think it’s a good opportunity if the concert goes ahead to have this discussion....”

Below Maryland Juice writer Dan Furmansky provides readers with an update on recent controversy surrounding Silver Spring's Fillmore music hall. At issue is the LiveNation venue's decision to book "Molotov," a Mexico City rock-rap band with a history of drawing protests from LGBT rights advocates. In his article, Furmansky discusses the outcome of a meeting between The Fillmore and Silver Spring LGBT activist Evan Glass, and he also provides commentary on the matter from Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett:

DAN FURMANSKY: “Can you imagine 2,000 people shouting "Kill the Faggot"? That is exactly what will most likely take place on August 26, when Mexican band Motolov performs at The Fillmore Silver Spring.” So writes Gabriel Rodríguez-Rico, a Mexican lawyer based in D.C., in his petition urging the Fillmore to not allow messages of hate and violence to spread at their venue. 

I signed Gabriel’s petition. Will you please join me?

The Washington Blade and Maryland Juice highlighted Molotov’s controversial lyrics last week, but the despite the public scrutiny, the Fillmore isn’t budging. (In case you missed it, here’s the story). Clearly, the Fillmore is not hearing from enough people. (Hint hint.)

One person the venue has heard from is Evan Glass, chair of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board and a board member of Equality Maryland. Glass reports to Juice that he met with the Fillmore late last week (in a personal capacity, he notes), a meeting he had scheduled even before the news broke about the band in The Washington Blade. Here’s what Evan had to say about the meeting:
EVAN GLASS: After being approached by various concerned parties, I met with representatives of the Fillmore Silver Spring to discuss the community's concerns with the band Molotov and the violently homophobic lyrics to some of their songs. The Fillmore’s position is that different Spanish speakers interpret the lyrics differently, and that regardless of interpretation, the Fillmore is a private business and is afforded the freedom of speech.

When the Nazi's marched in Skokie, Illinois in 1978 they were protected by the Constitution's First Amendment, but that did not mean they were welcome. Now, in 2013, in a state where marriage equality was recently approved at the ballot box, there is no excuse for promoting this type of hateful and homophobic language - whether directly from the band or indirectly as a music venue. The Fillmore needs to understand that they are operating within a progressive county that won't tolerate the condemnation of minority communities. If they move forward with allowing the band Molotov to play as scheduled, then I wouldn't be surprised to see the community respond with protests and a possible boycott.  
Given that there was a good deal of controversy regarding multi-million dollar taxpayer subsidies for The Fillmore Silver Spring, it looks like the chickens have come home to roost. Did Montgomery County sell its soul to the Walmart of music venues? And if Molotov is what we can expect now, what’s next for Montgomery County? I hear there are some great “white power bands” that Live Nation Entertainment might want to book. Might I suggest the bands Jew Slaughter or White Terror? Sure, they might rankle a few feathers, but if there’s money to be made and a private right of free speech to hide behind…

Speaking of money to be made, Live Nation Entertainment isn’t hurting. Live Nation Entertainment is a merger between Live Nation—a concert promoter—and Ticketmaster. With $5 billion in reported revenue in 2011, I think they can probably afford to take Molotov off the calendar without filing Chapter 7.

Of course, Live Nation Entertainment CEO and President Michael Rapino has a history of providing a forum for artists whose lyrics promote anti-gay violence, such as reggae artist Buju Banton, who attempted (poorly) to make nice with the LGBT community after being protested all over the world. The same can’t be said for Molotov. Given the seeming lack of a conscience from the Fillmore’s mother ship, I don’t think anything but bad PR and public pressure is going to deter the Fillmore Silver Spring from pulling Molotov. (Hint hint).

When the conversation about which music venue to bring to Silver Spring was taking place, some of these decision-makers said Live Nation would be better for the taxpayers. After $8 million dollars of our taxpayer money went to subsidize bringing Live Nation to Colesville Road, let me ask you this:

Do you feel Live Nation is being a good neighbor? Please sign the petition today.

Molotov has more than one song with homophobic slurs, but the one with the lyric, “I love the murderer; kill the faggot,” happens to be their most often played song in concerts. You can find numerous You Tube videos with unimpressive teenage boys belting the words out with hormone-laced, homophobic venom.
Just in case you’re feeling sympathetic because Molotov said “we don’t mean gay people,” I think the blog Blabbeando put it best a few years ago (excerpt below):
BLABBEANDO: In the past, Molotov has denied that the song is in any way, shape or form homophobic. In an article published in Uruguay's Ultima Hora on February 19, 2004 (which is no longer online), they were asked about the lyrics during a press conference. Band member Randy Ebright, who was actually born in the United States, was the one who came to its defense telling reporters that the song was meant to attack Mexican government officials and not the gay community. According to Ebright in Mexico the word "puto" meant "queer, someone who is fearful, who doesn't want to confront certain things." 
If you actually read the lyrics above you can actually see how they do reflect a blistering attack on those who might be passive to conformity and official corruption. But, as a Mexican friend of mine told me, why is it that when bands seek the worst thing to call anyone they immediately grab for the homophobic language? … But, whether we actually take Molotov's defense of the song at face value and recognize it as a critique on government, it doesn't mean that the crowds who have embraced the song haven't done so because it allows them to embrace the calls to kill a faggot. Believe me, I have been at concerts where the song has been played over the speakers before the actual show, and the crowd reaction is immediate, aggressive, loud, violent and extremely homophobic.
Gabriel, who created the petition, notes:
GABRIEL RODRIGUEZ: While Silver Spring celebrates recent landmarks in the fight for equality, summer of 2013 has already registered six attacks against members of the LGBTQ community in the D.C. area, including a transgender woman who was stabbed 35 to 40 times.

What more is there to say? 

Dan Furmansky

P.S. MOCO EXECUTIVE IKE LEGGETT WEIGHS IN - I contacted Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett's office to see what they had to say about this controversy, and they provided me a copy of the following letter they sent to The Fillmore Silver Spring:
July 18, 2013

Stephanie Steele
The Fillmore
8656 Colesville Road
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

Dear Ms. Steele,

It has come to my attention that the band Molotov is scheduled to perform at the Fillmore on August 26, 2013 and that band’s repertoire includes a song that attacks homosexual males in an extremely derogatory way, a song that verges on hate speech or completely crosses that line.

I have serious concerns about this booking. I am personally offended. I understand that the First Amendment provides for freedom of speech, and that even distasteful speech may be protected speech. I also know that under the lease agreement signed between Montgomery County and Live Nation, the County has no say in specific artistic content booked at the facility. And, of course, controversy over extreme song lyrics is not new or uncommon.

This correspondence is, therefore, not intended to dictate the choices The Fillmore makes but instead is for the purpose of expressing my personal opinion. I believe it is shared by others.

In addition to expressing my displeasure I would ask you to reconsider the Fillmore’s decision to book the Molotov band.

Bringing what I believe to be hateful sentiments into our County does nothing to contribute positively to our culture, tolerance, or the well-being of our County residents. This is true regardless of the source of those sentiments or the target of those sentiments. Just because one might argue that everyone has the right to say, show, or sing something doesn’t mean they ought to exercise that right. It also does not mean that The Fillmore should provide a forum for such an exercise.


Ike Leggett
County Executive

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