Popular Capitol Hill music venue Neumo's is out $15,000 this week, after canceling a scheduled Wednesday, September 27, performance of Jamaican dancehall artist Buju Banton.
Banton's infamous song "Boom Bye Bye," which he wrote over a decade ago when he was 15, is overtly homophobic. In the song, Banton sings about shooting gay men in the head and pouring acid on them. After he performed the song in Miami this past Memorial Day, Miami New Times reported that Banton said onstage, "People ask me: 'Buju, don't DJ "Boom Bye Bye" anymore...' There is no end to the war between me and faggot."
Banton has performed in Seattle several times before without incident, and Neumo's booking agent Steven Severin says he was not aware of the controversy surrounding Banton when he invited the artist to perform. Severin only learned about Banton's history when angry letters, phone calls, and emails started arriving at Neumo's on Friday, September 22.
Gay activists soon scheduled a meeting at the Seattle LGBT Community Center, which is just a block away from the Neumo's, to plan a protest at the club.
After much debate, Neumo's decided on Tuesday, September 26, to cancel the show. "Only in this extreme situation where it appears that there is a potential of violence due to extremely heated opinions... do we take this action," says Severin. In order to not be sued for breach of contract, Neumo's had to pay Banton in full—shelling out $15,000 for the show that didn't go on.
"It's a hard nut to swallow," says Severin.
Neumo's last-minute cancellation is in line with clubs' actions across the country. While Banton is a huge star in Jamaica, his reputation preceded him across the states and he's seen shows for his current Too Bad tour scrapped after protests in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Bloomington, Indiana.
Severin says the club will not book Banton firstname.lastname@example.org