No lesson learned from Lorde

Eleven cancellations racked up ahead of Meteor Festival, but show will go on with close to 50 international acts.

SINGER LORDE attends the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards in Inglewood, California, August 2017 (photo credit: DANNY MOLOSHOK/REUTERS)
SINGER LORDE attends the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards in Inglewood, California, August 2017
The new schedule for the upcoming Meteor Festival, released on Sunday, is starkly different to the one that graced its website for the past few weeks.
Gone, of course, is Lana Del Rey, the most famous name associated with the three-day event slated to begin this weekend. And gone are another 10 acts who were part of the lineup when the festival was first announced back in June. Those include Australian Mall Grab, British DJs Shanti Celeste and Leon Vynehall, Swedish DJ Seinfeld, American acts Volvox, DJ Python and Shlohmo, and locals Khalas and Zenobia.
After weeks of speculation and conflicting reports, South African group Black Motion was also finally pulled from the lineup.
Practically every day for the past month, Naranjah, the production company behind the September 6-8 festival at Kibbutz Lahavot Habashan has dealt with cancellations and intense pressure from the BDS movement on its lineup.
The biggest blow came this weekend, when Del Rey backed out less a week before her scheduled appearance. While a handful of acts had already pulled out over “BDS politics,” as Naranjah founder Eran Arieli wrote, others followed Del Rey.
On Friday, both Vynehall and Shlohmo made their cancellations official.
“Sorry for short notice but I will NOT be playing in Israel next week,” Shlohmo wrote on Twitter. “Sorry to the fans I’m letting down and to the festival staff but supporting the oppressed thru [sic] my absence is more important to me especially after the government’s recent human rights atrocities.”
Vynehall also took to Twitter, writing just “Contrary to reports, I will not be performing at meteor festival.”
Festival organizers said Sunday that several of the now-canceled acts were already “in danger of cancellation” before Del Rey’s announcement.
The Meteor Festival has added a few acts to its lineup to replace some of the cancellations: British musician Actress and DJs Secretsundaze and Dan Shake. And as the festival is quick to point out, it still includes more than 100 musicians in its extensive and diverse lineup. Barring any last-minute cancellations, international headliners including Pusha T, A$AP Ferg, Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington and Nina Kraviz are all still slated to appear. But close to 80 of the almost 130 other DJs, musicians and artists on the festival’s lineup are Israeli acts.
For several weeks, the festival has been saying it is close to sold out. On Sunday, organizers would not say how many tickets had been sold and how many remained. Last month, a spokesman said close to 10,000 tickets had been sold, and that was before Del Rey was slated to appear.
It is clear that the thousands of music fans who will converge on the kibbutz this weekend will enjoy one hell of a three-day dance party. But has the event shaped up the way Naranjah imagined? And could any of these headlines and cancellations have been avoided?
It’s hard not to recall the events of last December, when New Zealand singer/songwriter Lorde announced and then quickly canceled a show in Tel Aviv, citing politics. It’s also hard not to draw the connection that very same production company behind Lorde’s Israel concert is organizing the Meteor Festival. Last year, many criticized Naranjah, which was founded in 2009, for not adequately preparing the young singer for the onslaught of boycott pressure she would face.
After Lorde canceled, Arieli wrote that he was “naive to think that an artist of her age would be able to face the pressure of appearing in Israel,” and took responsibility for the cancellation.
But a spokeswoman for Naranjah told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that, despite the situation with Lorde, it hadn’t had any such discussions with the artists it signed for the Meteor Festival.
“We’re not a political festival. Everything was professional,” she said. Pressed about the wisdom of not warning any of the artists to expect calls and pressure to cancel, she said only that no such discussions had taken place.
There’s no doubt the festival is certainly apolitical, and Arieli has pointed out “We built this event brick by brick by ourselves, asking or receiving no support, funds or benefits from any governmental or political entity.”
But being apolitical doesn’t mean you can’t make sure artists who agree to play in Israel are prepared for the criticism they will almost definitely face. While some acts agree to perform in Israel knowing full well the pros and cons, others may be significantly less clued in to the geopolitical spotlight on such shows.
Close to a year after Lorde’s cancellation drew global headlines, international attention is focusing once more on Del Rey and the Meteor Festival, and not in a good way.
While one hopes that Naranjah will build on the success of Meteor and continue to book big shows in Israel, it can certainly stand to learn a few lessons along the way.