Artists Drop Out of Official SXSW Shows Due to Army Sponsorship

Squirrel Flower, Mamalarky opt for all-unofficial gigs

Squirrel Flower (Photo by Alexa Viscius)

Ahead of South by Southwest’s Friday kickoff, several visiting musical artists including Squirrel Flower and Mamalarky have dropped out of their official showcasing concerts in protest of the festival’s U.S. Army sponsorship.

Ella O'Connor Williams, who performs as Squirrel Flower, announced her decision on Instagram on Monday. “I have decided to pull out of my official SXSW showcases in protest of SXSW’s ties to the defense industry and in support of the Palestinian people,” she wrote. “There are many ways SXSW is harmful to working musicians, but I am pulling out specifically because of the fact that SXSW is platforming defense contractors including Raytheon subsidiaries as well as the US Army, a main sponsor of the festival.”

The U.S. Army is a super sponsor of SXSW 2024 and hosts several events at the festival, including a presentation on technology innovation featuring Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth and an official “This Is Our House” activation in collaboration with the U.S. Navy and SPIN magazine. Other SXSW super sponsors include Volkswagen, Porsche, Delta, C4 Energy, and The Austin Chronicle. (Editor’s note: SXSW co-founder and part-owner Nick Barbaro also co-founded and owns The Austin Chronicle.)

Official festival participant Collins Aerospace, a subsidiary of RTX Corporation (formerly Raytheon), will co-host the “Boundary Breakers: The Next Leap in Government and Defense Innovation” event alongside entrepreneur network MassChallenge and defense software company Second Front Systems.

A few hours after Squirrel Flower’s announcement, Los Angeles singer-songwriter Eliza McLamb posted a similar statement, writing, “I will never put my name on or perform my labor for an event in service of the US war machine, and especially not now as they continue to fuel the ongoing violence against Palestinians.” In keeping with the chain reaction, Brooklyn artist Shalom shouted out Squirrel Flower and McLamb in her own statement.

“I will stand on anti apartheid business until I die and that’s just the way it is,” she wrote. “I will not dance for the war machine.”

Austin-launched, Atlanta-based indie-psych group Mamalarky dropped out of their festival-sponsored events soon after. All four artists pointed fans to their various unofficial SXSW gigs, which they’ll continue to play. Today, Austin band Big Bill posted an “ANTI-SXSW” schedule of their unofficial gigs, also citing Raytheon’s involvement in the festival, as well as last year’s efforts to increase artist pay at the festival.

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South by Southwest, US Army, SXSW 2024, South by Southwest 2024, Squirrel Flower, Mamalarky, Shalom, Eliza McLamb, Big Bill

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