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Riot Room cancels controversial band’s concert after Talib Kweli’s protest

Hip-hop artist Talib Kweli canceled his Riot Room show after learning the venue had booked Taake, a Norwegian band accused of being Nazi sympathizers.
Hip-hop artist Talib Kweli canceled his Riot Room show after learning the venue had booked Taake, a Norwegian band accused of being Nazi sympathizers. ctoth@heraldsun.com

Westport music venue the Riot Room has decided to cancel the concert of a band that has been accused of being Nazi sympathizers after rapper Talib Kweli canceled his show at the venue in protest.

On the Riot Room’s Facebook page, this message was posted: “We have decided to cancel the Taake event scheduled to be held March 31st at The Riot Room. Refunds will be processed immediately for anyone who purchased tickets. As a venue, it is our priority to provide a safe, inclusive, and enjoyable environment for all patrons, artists, and staff. This always has, and will always continue to be our primary goal.”

The Facebook announcement prompted angry responses from Taake fans.

One posted: “Why not save yourself some time and just have Antifa approve your future bookings before posting them to Facebook? Can't have people thinking we live in a country where freedom of speech is alive and well!”

Another wrote: “What difference do you perceive between this ocassion and the previous 2 times Taake played at Riot? There were no problems at those shows. Are you receiving specific threats this time? Or is there some other difference? Without knowing more, this is a very disappointing decision.”

Antifa is a loose affiliation of leftist groups who advocate stringent opposition to fascism and white supremecy.

A group calling itself the Kansas City Revolutionary Collective had started a Facebook page called “Shut down Taake at the Riot Room” that threatened violence at the show.

Kweli on Tuesday told the management of the Riot Room, 4048 Broadway, that he would not perform on Wednesday, Feb. 21, after learning the venue had booked Taake, a black-metal band from Bergen, Norway.

Kweli released a statement on Tuesday that said: “I find it appalling that the Riot Room refuses to apologize for booking this band. I wouldn’t feel safe bringing my team, family and fans into a venue that is sympathetic to white nationalism, so I’ve canceled the show.”

In his statement, Kweli said he was not satisfied with how the Riot Room responded to his objection: “The response I received was that the venue did not want to choose sides between a band that sympathizes with racism and bigotry and me. I think it’s time to choose a side. I find it appalling that the Riot Room refuses to apologize for booking this band.”

Taake’s white supremacist reputation goes back to a 2007 show in Germany, when singer Hoest appeared on stage with a swastika painted on his chest.

The band’s manager, Bjørnar Erevik, has dismissed the incident as one moment of bad judgment. He told Newsweek magazine: “Many of these claims are just ludicrous. They are not into that kind of stuff at all.”

However, Hoest inflamed the situation in his response, in which he said the band’s concept was “built on provocation and evil,” but then told the owner of the club in which the incident occurred to “suck a Muslim.”

The band has also taken heat for its lyrics, which some critics have called xenophobic. Taake, however, have said that the sole intent is to criticize all religions.

The band recently drew the attention of the antifa — anti-fascist — movement. On Feb. 9, Twitter user Nebraska Antifa tweeted the Riot Room: “Why is Taake booked for March 31? You know they sing about killing Muslims while displaying swastikas, right?”

The Riot Room cancellation prompted an exchange between Kweli and a fellow Twitter user, who tweeted: “I completely understand the difference, but how does a neutral venue draw the line on freedom? Please understand that nobody involved in your show supports Nazis venue included.”

To which Kweli responded: “If you allow a Nazi band to grace your stage you support Nazis. You must work for the Riot Room. (Bleep) you.”

Hoest has since released another statement about his use of the swastika: “It was all about doing something extreme for the sake of it, which certainly backfired. But it has now been 11 years and the band has even performed in Israel.”

One of Taake’s openers, goth-country artist King Dude, has dropped off the tour. He released a statement that said, “The banner under which people enter a King Dude concert must be welcoming to all people of all walks of life, race, religion, gender etc.”

Venues in New York and Chicago have either canceled or are making plans to cancel Taake shows.

The story of Kweli’s cancellation of his Riot Room show has been covered throughout the national music media, including articles in Billboard, Pitchfork and Pollstar.

Kweli, a hip-hop artist and social activist, first came into prominence as a member of Black Star, his rap duo with Mos Def. Kweli has released eight solo albums, including “Radio Silence,” released in 2017.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

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