The Sad State of the Ark
I was actually at the controversial Ark show in D.C. last Sunday, and here’s my version.
The Ark took the stage around 4:15 p.m. as the finale for the opening of the new Swedish embassy (which, incidentally, despite its lovely light, faux wood, and glass architecture, still looks like it was assembled from a very, very large box with an Allen wrench, in the grand Swedish tradition). The stage was set up on a hill outside the new embassy, right on the edge of the Potomac.
This location is unfortunately close to Reagan National Airport. Large, noisy, and ominously close planes plagued the band's set. Pretty early on, after one jet passed by loud and low, frontman Ola Salo said that
“here in America you never know where those things are flying,” and then off-handedly commented, “The White House is that way.” The plane passed and the band went into the next song. He did not, as Fox News suggests, say "someone should fly a plane into the White House.” It sounded, to me, my husband, and our road-trip companion, (we were all approximately five feet away from Salo) that he was saying, “You never know where they are flying because the White House is right there”—more like a comment of concern about being so close to the White House. Of course, only Salo knows what he really meant, and he has apologized since to anyone he might have offended, but both the Post and Fox have taken what he said completely out of context for sensational purposes. Imagine that.
Up until this point it had been a fun and somewhat political show, and I wasn't surprised (we were in D.C., after all). When I spoke with Salo last week we talked extensively about Swedish and American politics. In D.C., the band chose to open their set with “Deliver Us from Free Will” and soon were on to “Father of a Son,” their much ballyhooed song about gay adoption rights. At this point, Salo initiated his “Mr. Bush are you listening?” comments (again, FOX news incorrectly reports they sang a song slandering Bush). He was also sarcastically making fun of Sweden the whole time and the good-natured Swedes took it all in stride. My favorite rant of the afternoon was Salo’s “mission to finally teach Americans the difference between Sweden and Switzerland.” In his strongly accented English he instructed the crowd that, “In Switzerland they eat the cheese that smells like fermented, old fish; in Sweden we eat the fermented, old herring fish. In Switzerland they make the multipurpose knives; in Sweden we make the multipurpose porn.”
In a rock-club setting, I'm sure Salo generally finds more like-minded individuals who get his sense of humor, but to say this was a mixed crowd would be an understatement (their set had followed a performance by a teen choir). I didn't notice anyone leaving after the comment and the band went on to play a great, rockin' set, complete with a spine tingling crowd sing-along at the end.
All this would be easily dismissed if the band hadn't canceled their shows in Boston and last night, here in NYC, due to what the Ark's web forum is describing as “performance visa problems.” In my experience, it's almost impossible to get artists into or out of the country without proper documentation in the first place. Just ask any band who's tried to play in Canada.
I don't yet have any word from the band’s publicist as to whether these issues are related to the D.C. performance, or if the Seattle show will be affected, but I’ll post updates on Line Out when we have more information.
Here's a statement from the band's publicist:
“In the wake of diplomatic entanglements, the Ark canceled their October 24 date in Boston and postponed their October 25 performance at New York's Bowery Ballroom until November, but are determined to carry on with the current tour, which resumes Saturday, October 28 in Chicago at Schuba's.”