Viet Cong's (Old) Band Name Continues to Stir Controversy at Polaris Gala

Viet Cong's (Old) Band Name Continues to Stir Controversy at Polaris Gala
Thanks to their excellent self-titled albumViet Cong's music earned them a rightful place on the Polaris Music Prize shortlist last night (September 21). That said, the accomplishment may have been overshadowed. Once again, and despite their promise to change it next year, the band's controversial choice of name resulted in some mixed reactions from the audience.

Audible boos were heard from the crowd early in the night when Fred Penner said their name, and the tension continued to rise until Wolf Parade/Operators' Dan Boeckner introduced the band.

Boeckner described a "mountain of ink, Twitter posts, conversations public and private, arguments, a mountain of words, hurt, crazy accusations, regret" about the band's name. Further, he said "it's time for understanding. It's time to heal up, because the world is a dark place.... When our vibrant arts community tears itself apart over issues, the forces of darkness stand around us and rub their sweaty fucking palms together. Our efforts are needed, our energy is needed, but they're needed for dire issues." He went on to introduce them as "Matt, Monty, Danny and Mike."

The words did not exactly sit well with Jon McCurley, who co-runs Double Double Land and recently spoke with Exclaim! about why he finds the Viet Cong name insulting. For the Polaris gala, he was part of a group who created and disseminated some anti-Viet Cong T-shirts, one of which was worn by presenter Simone Schmidt while onstage. Through a series of Facebook posts, McCurley described a verbal spat he had with members of Viet Cong and Boeckner outside of the venue.

got in an argument w singer from viet cong and his friend outside of polaris --- he said no their name is not racist,...

Posted by Jon McCurley on Monday, September 21, 2015

also anyone catch the guy form wolf parade introduce viet cong by saying something like lets time to move into the light...

Posted by Jon McCurley on Monday, September 21, 2015

fuck im so mad right nowi almost cried when they played, their interpretation of "viet cong" is so sick --- its...

Posted by Jon McCurley on Monday, September 21, 2015

the guy who told me to not be ignorent abt vietnamese history and fuck off was the guy from wolf parade!!!!! in case this gets shared im vietnamese LOL

Posted by Jon McCurley on Monday, September 21, 2015

Naturally, Viet Cong's Polaris appearance spread around social media like wildfire. While neither Boeckner nor the members of Viet Cong responded, Boeckner's Operators bandmate Devojka opted to defend him on Twitter.

Owen Pallett, who presented Polaris winner Buffy Sainte-Marie earlier that night, also seemingly referenced Viet Cong's Polaris intro with a Facebook post:

I spend most of my life wishing hoping for Real Criticism instead of Cool Platitudes. To be called out is a gift, to be...

Posted by Owen Pallett on Monday, September 21, 2015

As previously reported, Viet Cong recently announced plans to change their name when they release their next album in 2016. "We are a band of four people with four individual voices; this debate has been long and difficult for us and it took time for everyone to settle on a plan of action," they said in a statement. "We don't know what the new name of our band will be, and we owe it to our fans to honour the concerts we have booked. We rushed into our last band name decision, we don't plan to rush into this one, but know that will be rolling out a new name as soon as we agree upon one."

UPDATE (9/23, 1:55 p.m.): Taking to Twitter, Dan Boeckner responded to Jon McCurley's accusations. He apologized for telling a Vietnamese person how they should feel about Vietnamese culture. He also clarified that the "dark forces" he referred to in his Polaris speech were "white, conservative men" who threaten the country's arts funding.