Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Dixie Chicks: Shut Up And Sing (Edinburgh Filmhouse)

This, of course, is the documentary about what happened to The Dixie Chicks, best-selling female group in history, after their lead singer Natalie Maines made an off-the-cuff comment while onstage at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, to the effect that they were embarrassed that the U.S. President was a Texan. The result being that they got death threats and a massed boycott by America's country music radio stations. Those of who who remember my previosu post on the topic will know it turned out OK, but thhis film docments the journey. It certainly had an effect on the Chicks, making them redefine themselves as not simply a country group but as a band who played country(ish) music. There's plenty of music in the film, of course, with reciording sessions, live shows, rehearsals and all; there's banjo player Emily Robison's pregnancy (with twins) and their eventual arrival. There's the story of the feud between Natalie Maines and Toby Keith (another country singer, but without much profile in the UK as far as I can tell). He had been publicly putting down the Chicks, going so far as to have a backdrop at his concerts with a faked picture of Natalie Maines and Saddam Hussein. In the film we see Maines having the idea of an FUTK T-shirt, which she duly wore on stage for a while. Keith's fans of course duly trooped out with FUDC shirts on, provoking the wonderful (and much-cheered the night I saw the film) response from Natalie: 'I saw all those people out there with FUDC t-shirts, and I have to ask: what have you all got against Dick Cheney?"' Probably the only line in the film to provoke a bigger audience cheer was when the Chicks returned to the Shepherds Bush Empire on their next tour ("Back to the scene of the crime" as Maines put it). She said she hadn't prepared any particular remarks for the occasion, but just wanted everyone in the audience to know that they were still ashamed that George W Bush was from Texas.

And if the American far right don't like it, screw them. The Dixie Chicks will always be welcome in Britain, where most of us we agree with them on Shrub, but where we're more interested in their music than in their politics in any case. From this side of the Atlantic, the Chicks are the acceptable face(s) of country. And Toby Keith is nobody.

See the film if you get a chance: it's great fun, and shows that despite all the attempts to stifle it, free speech still exists in the USA. Plus the music's great, and there are alot of funny bits.

An aside: I didn't stay for the after-film discussion, but the performance I attended was sponsored by the Humanist Society. While a lot of the Chicks' critics are from the "religious right", the criticism wasn't intrinsically religious, so I was curious as to why they'd picked that film to sponsor. But then, when was they last time you saw a film that was avowedly humanist in its message?

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