This story comes out of Pitchfork.
"Experimental" "Punk" band No Age hoisted a giant F.U. to Converse at a recent show on December 18th in Barcelona, while also enabling Converse to sell shoes because it was a Converse sponsored event.
No Age have done this anti-corporate stuff before, headlining an Anti Walmart concert protesting Walmart. I believe it was called the Low Hanging Fruit concert.
Unlike Fugazi, No Age's Barcelona show is much more indicative of the times we're living in. According to the official press release from Dean Allen Spunt who grew up on the mean streets of Burbank:
On November 21st, No Age was asked to perform in Barcelona at a concert sponsored by Converse shoes. After several discussions over email regarding where banners could be placed, in contradiction to our contract, I allowed and agreed to as much overt advertising as possible. We asked for a projector to show visuals while we performed. For our performance we played 6 songs, the lights came down and the projectionist played the video piece we had made, we kept playing sounds from the stage. It contained images of Black Friday consumers with abstract text I had written, images of sweatshop workers, crying babies, protesters and excerpts from an article about Nike owning Converse shoes and the conditions of the factories and the workers that had been written in November of 2011 by the Associated Press. The promoter tried to shut the video off after about 8 minutes, I yelled at him to keep it playing, he eventually shut it off at about 15 minutes, not allowing the video to finish its duration of about 20 minutes. We played 6 more songs, I thanked Converse shoes, we packed up and we left.
Nike, who bought Converse in 2003, would never in a million years be considered the patron saint of human rights.
And yet, it's this kind of bullshit from bands that angers me. No Age allowed as much advertising from Converse as possible and then tried to assuage their doucheness in doing so by showing off a "protest video" during a concert at the point when most likely, everyone wasn't in listening mode, so much as "let's get fucked up and dance mode."
The always excellent Spanish blog Indiespot gave a fuller account, since they were there.
In the best translation of a translation I can muster from the article, this is what the Spanish indie rock loving people thought after the video ended and the music began again:
After ten minutes of confusion, the concert forcibly takes its course...No Age delivered, this time with greater intensity, classics like 'Teen Creeps' or 'Fever Dreaming'. But many people could not think of the music, but if what he said in the video was true...how No Age could have the balls to come here from Los Angeles, specifically for this concert only to break the teeth of people who had trusted them and had hired and worked excellently for everything to go well.
On whether the end justifies the means: Is it lawful to charge thousands of euros for playing in an event with which you disagree only with the aim of boycott? Would not it be easier to reject the proposal for any reason whatsoever, and nothing else? Then you lose your most powerful transmission channel.
So they question whether it was wise to make the people who were putting on the show in Barcelona look bad for their own self-serving interests. Yeah, I'd question that motive, too. The blog post concludes with the notion that since there is confusion as to whether their gesture was a morally questionable childish prank, or something to be taken more seriously, the band should probably explain itself.
Does the press release do so? I don't think so. Question for No Age: Did you get money from Converse from this sponsored show? if so, you should give it back. Wouldn't want all that filthy lucre on your hands. You're not a hero by taking media dollars from a company and spitting in their eye as a thank you. You're just another snot-nosed bunch of assholes with a self-righteous bent you're using as justification for being a pawn in the corporate shill game.
Like the Spanish post said, if it really bothered you, you wouldn't have played the show. You wouldn't have taken the money and displayed the ads all over the stage. Most people won't know if you're being serious or just being ironic as a ways to distance yourself from being a shill. But hey, why on Earth would anyone want to be sincere and direct?
I'd also love to know if they feel this was a fearless act of defiance, when as stated in the press release, this news has already gotten tons of coverage. Nike (and by extension, Converse) are already known for using Sweatshops. And Ironically, when you point out this, the sales go up. Anyone remember Jonah Peretti's Sweatshop shoe email viral exchange? In one of the first big viral email chains on the internet of this kind, the protest backfired, and the word "Nike" appeared over and over again and sales went up.
Congratulations, No Age. Not only do you not know your history, but you are more than likely doomed to repeat it. You're not only hypocrites for taking Converse's money, you're also putting Converse's name first and foremost on every music site out there. You enabled them, and gave them free advertising, too.
Far different from your Anti-Walmart concert, no?
Speaking of advertising, No Age have had no problem taking cash from brands and becoming shills in the past. As of 2012, they have a line of clothing at Altamont Apparel. In 2009, they happily lent their name to vegan skate shoes designed by shoe company Emerica.
Despite its name suggesting otherwise, Emerica seems to have its factory set up overseas, too.
But if No Age are involved those workers are raking it in, I'm sure.
Job well done all around.