Metal Festivals Shouldn’t Let Anselmo’s Outburst Slide

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An online petition has been launched encouraging the organiser of Download Festival, Andy Copping, to drop metal supergroup Down from its line-up in light of its frontman Phil Anselmo performing Nazi salutes and chanting ‘white power’ on stage a fortnight ago. The vulgar display of [white] power occurred at this year’s edition of Dimebash, an annual event honouring the legacy of the late Pantera and Damageplan guitarist Dimebag Darrell.

Having been filmed during the outburst and subsequently exposed as a Nazi-sympathising dunce, Anselmo received condemnation from fellow metal luminary Rob Flynn, plus much of its wider community. Metal festivals, on the other hand, have been slower to respond.

As a convenient parallel, tech-house producer and DJ Ten Walls was immediately and unilaterally banished from dance festival bills last June in the wake of severely homophobic comments he posted to his Facebook page. Of course one would expect the realms of house and techno to reject an artist for expressing opinions so antithetical to their founding principles, but the indecision of not only Download but Hellfest and Graspop Metal Meeting suggests an apathy towards intolerance that some already associate with the genre.

The Netherlands’ FortaRock, however, has already dropped Down from its line-up, and issued the following statement: “After the recent outbursts by singer Phil Anselmo during the Dimebash event in the U.S., his band Down is no longer welcome at FortaRock.

“There has been close consultation between all parties [in] recent days, since we wanted to make a well informed decision. On that basis, the decision is made to cancel the act. We want to make clear that there is no room for racism or fascism on FortaRock.”

Anselmo has issued several apologies and excuses since the incident, each undermined by his history of racist tirades. Interestingly, in the latest apologetic screed he suggests that he may leave the band: ‘My band mates are now experiencing the consequences of my behavior, and I now publicly apologise to them as well. Never in my entire lifetime would I drag them down with me, and I’ve privately suggested to them that they move on without me.’

Since Down is ostensibly made up of 80% non-fascists, Anselmo’s departure could allow the band to mitigate some of the damage and remain a fixture of the metal festival world, but until that becomes a reality organisers will have a tough time justifying this inaction.