‘The Powerstation is a blank canvas,’ says owner after organisers reveal alt-right duo Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux will appear at beloved music venue in Auckland this evening.
The owner and manager of Auckland live music venue The Powerstation has cancelled the appearance this evening of Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern. Peter Campbell initially defended the booking, but within an hour of ticketholders being emailed venue information he announced it would no longer go ahead at the Newton venue.
Known as one of New Zealand’s leading music venues for the past three decades, The Powerstation – which describes itself as “The Apollo Theatre of Auckland” – has been host to many outspoken musical guests including Public Enemy, Marilyn Manson and, most recently, Kendrick Lamar in 2012. They will now play host to two speakers known exclusively for racist and intolerant hate speech.
The news has been met with derision from local artists, and the venue’s Facebook page has been flooded with one star reviews.
When approached for comment, The Powerstation’s owner and manager Peter Campbell told the Spinoff he was unaware of the views espoused by the pair.
“A couple of Canadians came in last night to make a booking” and he was simply “putting content through a venue”, said Campbell.
With artists like Kendrick Lamar playing that same venue, Campbell said he thought those artists would support his decision. “Wouldn’t those artists also enjoy the right to confront them – and say ‘how the fuck can you share that opinion?'”
When told about the pair mocking the Waharoa at Auckland Airport, Campbell was disappointed. “I think it’s ridiculous – how dare they? I would love to challenge them on that.” He did not, however, regard it as a reason to disallow an act from performing at his venue.
“The Powerstation is a blank canvas. The venue is the venue,” he said. “I own the Powerstation but do I have the right to decide what goes in the venue? I don’t know.”
When the outcry from musicians and the public was put to him, he said to the Spinoff reporter: “What do you think I should do?”
Shortly afterwards, Campbell told media that the event had been cancelled.
He did so “because of the disruption it would cause”, according to RNZ. He stood by the decision to book them, however, telling TVNZ1 that “the content of their speech wasn’t the reason he pulled the event, nor was the negative backlash”.
“I don’t think anyone wants to see a really important venue fuck up like this,” says James Milne who has played at the Powerstation under his moniker Lawrence Arabia. “I just hope they weren’t aware of the actual content of these dullard’s speeches when they booked them.”
Musician Ladi6 who played the venue in recent days, welcomed the decision to cancel. “The Powerstation is a family owned and operated business by a small family that have struggled to keep it operating, they did not fully understand the content of the show it previously booked and cancelled when it understood,” she wrote on Twitter. “The right thing to do, no?”
In the email announcing the venue, organisers thanked ticketholders for “the incredible understanding and patience you’ve shown as we’ve had to keep the location of the venue secret for as long as possible”.
It anticipated protests, saying, “We look forward to the day when venues aren’t bullied for daring to be available and ideas right of Stalin are permitted equal rights to peaceful assembly. On that note, please make sure to rate the below venue 5 starts on Faacebook for courage, as the intolerant Leftists will be rating them low for no other reason than they had the audacity to host a conservative event.”
Shortly after the venue was revealed, protesters were sharing maps of the area around the Powerstation, encouraging demonstrators to block performers’ entry points.
Southern’s agent, Caolan Robertson, told Newshub that “powerful forces” had opposed the event, and they would not attempt to hold it elsewhere.
He went on to promise retribution. “We’re going to go after the venue, we’re going to go after the media, we’re going to go after all the people who’ve decided to slander it,” he said.
“It’s basically the whole media in this country who have written hit pieces constantly saying that Lauren’s racist and a white supremacist.”
Alt-right cheerleader Southern and Molyneux, an avowed “race science” advocate, recently appeared in Australia where they mocked indigenous culture.
The Canadian pair were originally slated to appear at the Bruce Mason Theatre in Takapuna. The booking was cancelled by the council-owned Auckland Live over health and safety concerns. Remarks by Auckland mayor Phil Goff, who said the pair were not welcome, led to the formation of the Free Speech Coalition, which launched court action, saying, “the ban sets a dangerous precedent for anyone who wants to express, or hear, controversial views.”