Breaking: Three More SXSW Bands Denied Entry Into US

Three SXSW Bands Denied Entry into US
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Three SXSW Bands Denied Entry into US
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Paul Hudson (CC by 2.0)

Add three more bands to the list who won’t play at this year’s SXSW.

An Italian band arrived in the United States this week, ready to play at this year’s SXSW in Austin.  In their hands, the group held a letter stating that they wouldn’t receive payment for their festival performance.  Yet, upon arrival, immigration officials detained the group at passport control.

Officials called the three group members into three separate interrogation rooms.  The group managed to have the officials call their American label agent.  After four hours of questioning, Customs and Border Protection officials made their decision: they had to deport the group back to Italy.

Despite their intention not to work for money in the US, immigration banded the group illegal immigrants.  Officials confiscated their cell phones and refused them the opportunity to contact loved ones.  They also took mugshots and digital fingerprints.

After handcuffing them, two prison officers frisked them and brought them to jail.  The group passed the night in jail.

Soviet Soviet shared their story with the world via a lengthy Facebook post.  The group, now labeled immigrants and criminals, apologized to fans and canceled their US tour.  However, the group isn’t alone in facing US bans for wanting to perform at SXSW.

Yesterday afternoon, Brownswood Recordings announced that drummer Yussef Dayes had his visa revoked “at the 11th hour.”  He performs with London-based duo Yussef Kamal and United Vibrations, alongside his brothers, Ahmed and Kareem.  They also faced similar last-minute revocations.

The label went on to add that Yussef Kamal believes the decision based on religious and racial discrimination.  The Dayes brothers would’ve arrived today, according to a statement from Brownswood.  United Vibrations said,

“We are sad to announce we will NOT be performing at SXSW in Texas because our ESTA’s have been revoked under the new Executive Order.  We were looking forward to connecting with our brothers and sisters stateside to share our music.

Why weren’t we let in?  Our Names?  The music?  The color of our skin?””

Ahead of their performance, post-hardcore band Massive Scar Era posted a Facebook video.  Based out of Vancouver, Canada, and Cairo, the video claims that US officials denied the group entry into the country.  The group readily provided officials with the necessary paperwork, as did Soviet Soviet.

Massive Scar Era’s Facebook post reads,

“After providing all the necessary paperwork that proves that we are performing at SXSW under a B1 Visa, and after showing officer the SXSW official waiver that proved we don’t need P2 Visa to perform in SXSW! Even after calling the festival in front of the officer!!!!  USA denied us Massive Scar Era to enter !!!!!!

“My passport (Egyptian) couldve been the issue. Our bassist is first nation!  He is allowed to get in and work in USA whenever he wants to, the officer told him that his official first nation card ( releases by the canadian government) doesn’t prove he is first nation and he needs to get DNA test (lol) he told him that he did this already to get the card in the first place!


Massive Scar Era had planned four American tour dates. The group would’ve played in Austin at SXSW, Denver, Provo, Utah, and Seattle. Cherine Amr, a native Egyptian and the group’s guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist, explains in the video the events.  Amr claims that a CBP official questioned Dylan Pieter Wijdenes-Charles, the group’s bassist, over his ethnic identity. The explanation starts at 1:33.

“Dylan is a First Nation. He’s allowed to go to the States whenever he wants to, work whenever he wants to, because he’s First Nation.  He [the CBP agent] looked at him and he’s like, ‘Next time when you come, you have to show a blood test that you’re First Nation.'”

NPR says that the official’s discriminatory comments may have violated the 1974 Jay Treaty. The treaty allows First Nation members and American Indians to freely cross the US-Canadian border for many reasons.

Danish EDM producer ELOQ also faced similar detention.  He explains on Twitter that officials detained him, despite having the correct paperwork as verified by SXSW.  He had traveled to the United States in an 11-hour long flight. CBP officials handcuffed and kept ELOQ in a “very bright room” and a “very unpleasant jail cell for 23 hours.”



ELOQ has since returned home and enjoyed playing Zelda on his new Nintendo Switch.

Many artists and fans may quickly blame Donald Trump for his executive orders.  However, the fault may not lie completely with him.  NPR explains that obtaining an O or P visa has proven difficult, even before Trump entered office.

“…If you’re a young, independent artist or band only starting to make your mark on the music scene — and hoping that a performance at an event like SXSW is going to boost your visibility to American bookers, agents, record labels and the like — it’s pretty improbable that the U.S. government is going to deem you “renowned.””

Lawyer Brian Taylor Goldstein explained that even after officials issue an O or P visa, individual immigration officers may choose to allow or refuse entry.

“An Immigration Officer has the unfettered authority and discretion to deny entry to any artist from any nationality for any reason. To what extent this authority will be exercised remains to be seen.”

Now, under Trump’s administration, petitioning for an O or P visa has become more difficult and time-consuming.  Previously, officials could choose to waiver in-person interviews for O or P visa renewals.  Today, in Section 9 of Trump’s latest executive order, all individuals seeking a non-immigrant visa must return to U.S. consulates for personal interviews.

Goldstein describes the added burden U.S. consulates and embassies will have to face under the latest executive order.

“Until additional consular staff is hired, [Trump’s] Order will place enormous burdens on U.S. consulates and embassies — particularly high-volume consulates — by increasing already extended interview wait times and processing times, wasting limited resources and potentially decreasing the quality of consular interviews.”

10 Responses

  1. music stowaway

    Here’s something that artists who are thinking of relocating to the USA
    on a more permanent basis may find interesting.

    It’s a difficult path for a musician to become a permanent resident of the USA.
    You have to demonstrate a level of success and standing in the music market.

    If you a new or small and not widely successful band/artist then your chances are
    minimal in getting PR into the USA.

    British electro music artist Gary Numan had to get testimonials from other
    successful artists and musicians to prove his case to the USA.

    See this quote from

    In 2011, the singer made plans to emigrate to California with his wife, Gemma, and three daughters, and he asked his famous pals to provide testimonies about his character and work ethic when applying to the U.S. Government for permanent residency in the country.

    He asked the Nine Inch Nails frontman to vouch for his talent, hoping Reznor’s recent Oscar win for Best Original Score for The Social Network would help strengthen his application, along with several other famous friends.

    Numan tells Australia’s Herald Sun, “It was about two weeks after he won the Oscar that we filed the application with his testimonial letter, so that was quite good timing and quite helpful.

    “Dave Navarro from Jane’s Addiction wrote one, Alan Wilder from Depeche Mode, I had some really cool people coming to help me out. It’s embarrassing calling up your friends and saying, ‘Do you mind writing a letter to tell the U.S. Government how amazingly brilliant I am?'”

    Numan relocated to America in 2012.

    Here’s another link that goes into some more specific detail about this

  2. cb

    What a load of nonsense. I was wondering when this would appear on DMN. Musicians have ALWAYS needed a particular visa, usually a “P Visa” or similar, when entering the USA. This has been the case for years and years and years, decades in fact. It’s nothing new. It’s not a conspiracy nor a direct action of Mr Trump. Musicians have and will have gotten denied entry many times before because they try to enter the USA on an ESTA or a B1/B2. You cannot enter the USA as a musician on an ESTA or a B1/B2, or if you have then you have been very lucky. The only reason we are hearing about it more now is because being “denied” entry to the USA, for any reason whatsoever, is suddenly a wonderful news grabbing headline.

  3. cb

    Oh and relying on SXSW to inform you of what immigration documents you need to enter a foreign country……..

    • RR

      Good comments cb. Very one sided and poorly written story. We don’t know why there were denied entry and to imply that it’s ‘just because they’re not American’ is lazy reporting.

      I personally have been detained entry (very briefly) into Australia because something on my visa wasn’t correct. We resolved the issue and I was on my way.

      I work with Canadian artists in the US and we deal with renewing their Visa’s every year. Yes it’s a hassle, but we do it and it’s all above board.

      My point is, every country has restrictions on entering to perform music. Let this be a lesson to everyone, the burden is on you to make sure you have the proper clearance to perform outside of your country of residence / citizenship. If someone else is ‘taking care of your Visa’ you still need to verify and make sure it’s done properly.

      • cb

        Editorial isn’t a priority here. As long as the article gets clicks that’s all what matters to DMN

        • Angelito

          That’s all that matters to all content providers. Your point?

  4. Seth Keller

    A friend of mine in the biz posted the Soviet Soviet story on facebook and tagged me. I commented there and will here that while the treatment of the band members was, uh, deplorable, being denied entry was the fault of their representatives. Whether they were being paid or doing free shows, they should have been advised to get work visas. Even pre-Trump bands trying to enter foreign countries to play any type of show (paid or unpaid) without work visas risked being denied entry. Most indie bands and labels don’t get the work visas to save money or because they’re unaware of the consequences of not having them. Even our friendly northern neighbors will turn away US bands at the border without work visas even if they’re only playing promotional shows.

    • cb

      I agree. So why is DMN putting this as “breaking news?” As in how exactly does this provide useful information to those of us working in the music industry? Am I meant to be poised for “imminent updates?” Let’s try to focus on what your core “beliefs” are of this website guys.

  5. music stowaway

    The story is a good wake up call to bands/artists/producers thinking of coming into the USA and may be contemplating doing it on the sly (visa waiver program / tourist visa) – this story highlights the need to follow the rules and disclose anything that
    may impact your chances..

    Fraud is a serious offense and has consequences..

  6. Martin Cradick

    I don’t know where you get the idea that in the past interviews were discretionary. 10 years in a row we toured in USA. Every year we all had to get to the US Embassy by 8am for interviews (150 miles away). Even though some of the staff started to recognise us we still had to go in person each time. They don’t make it easy, you can’t even take car keys into the embassy (but their mates round the corner will look after them for you for £10!)