Iranian rock band has dreams of a US show delayed by a visa

  • 14 March 2014
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This year's South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas, features roughly 4,000 performers from more than 70 countries - including at least 170 British acts. One country that won't be represented, however, is Iran - despite the best efforts of an underground rock band from Tehran.

The Muckers were scheduled to perform Friday night at a local Austin bar, but visa difficulties have kept them from entering the US.

BBC's First Person profiled the band earlier this week, where lead singer Rasoo, 22, discussed the difficulties of playing rock in a country where performing rock music to an audience is illegal.

"The biggest problem as a musician in Iran is that I wasn't able to play any shows, and you can't have fans, and you can't promote your music," says Rasoo.

He adds that life "isn't dangerous" for a young man in Iran now - "if you behave in certain ways".

Getting visa approval for playing SXSW can be difficult, and the Muckers aren't the only international band that has had to cancel a performance because it couldn't enter the country.

The Jakarta Post profiles the Indonesian band Sigmun, whose members were "ecstatic" when they thought they were going to be able to play the festival.

"It was a gig that striving bands all over the world would bawl in joy over; a multiple-day event choked full of industry people, scene legends, and ample networking opportunities; the place to play at if you wanted to 'make it,'" writes Marcel Thee

Getting approval for bands can be an arduous process even for acts from the UK, as Stuart Green, manager for the Fat White Family, tells the Guardian. The application process alone can cost a group £5,000 ($8,300).

"You have to put a separate application in for band and crew, so that doubles the cost," explains Green. "You apply to the department of Homeland Security. They won't approve it unless you get a letter from the unions saying that you're not taking anybody's job. There's a charge for that, too. Of course, I couldn't apply for the visas until I got the official invitation from SXSW - so we wouldn't be able to get the visas in time unless we used the visa consultants at Traffic Control Group to hustle it through for us quickly. And if you apply within a few months of the date you need it for, they charge a premium to process it."

The whole process has the Irish Times' music blogger Jim Carroll wondering if it's all worth it.

"At this stage, many observers will question their sanity in travelling all this way to play three or four gigs in the Live Music Capital of the World," he writes. "This is before you take into account what the bulk of the gigs will be like. Many of the shows will be poorly attended - even that fabled one-man-and-his-poor-dog won't show - and there's a never-ending sense that you are a bullock or heifer on parade in a cattle mart."

According to a SXSW preview on the website do512, the Muckers have a "minimal indie pop sound" and are influenced "influenced by bands like Pond, the Strokes, Tame Impala and Kings of Leon".

Rasoo says that with his kind of music, "people are going to want to dance with it, or head-bang with it or whatever or jump with it".

If and when the Muckers' visa issues are resolved, they hope to jump on the stage in the US - and for once a crowd of fans could be jumping with them.