Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., has rescinded its invitation to a Canadian indie rock band that was slated to perform next month over the group’s name – the New Pornographers.
Though the Student Activities Office (SAO) at the Reformed Christian college invited the band because they “fit our rubric of engaging culture through a Christian lens,” some mistakenly associated the band – and consequently the school – with pornography, though neither endorses it.
“The band makes good, thoughtful music, and we invited them here based on their artistic merit,” the school explained in a statement this week. “However, after weeks of discussion and consideration, the irony of the band's name was impossible to explain to many.”
According to SAO's mission statement, the office tries to accomplish two goals in all of its programs – first is to help students engage with popular culture and to discern the positive and negative messages contained within, and second is to provide a season of concerts, films, lectures and other programs that allow Calvin students to interact with artists of a wide array of genres.
To date, the office has invited contemporary Christian musicians such as Caedmon's Call, Jars of Clay, and Sandra McCracken, as well as Christians who perform in the mainstream, including Sufjan Stevens, Bruce Cockburn, Rosie Thomas, and Nickel Creek. SAO has also invited artists who would not call themselves Christians, including Sigur Ros, Death Cab for Cutie, Dave Matthews, and Jenny Lewis.
While SAO admits that their approach “has its risks,” the controversy over The New Pornographers’ name, the school said, had become a “distraction” to the good work it is trying to do through the office.
“We should have realized this before the band was invited to perform at the college,” the school stated.
“The Student Activities Office regrets the way this has happened,” it added. “We regret the message we have sent to the band and their fans with this cancellation, and any confusion this has caused generally.”
According to the college, the office has been in contact with the band to explain their regretful decision “and the breakdown in our own processes that led us to first invite them and then withdraw that invitation.”
The band, on Tuesday, informed their fans that the show at Calvin College on Oct. 15 had been canceled. Without saying more, the band directed fans to the college’s website for details regarding ticket refunds and other information.
According to New Pornographers mastermind Carl Newman, the name for the group came from two main sources – a Japanese movie titled “The Pornographers” and British-based pop group called “The New Seekers.”
While some have suggested that the name originated from a quote from televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who said rock 'n' roll was the "new pornography," Newman says the name’s creation in 1996 (one year before the band’s formation) came before he heard Swaggart’s remarks, which were made in 1986.
"Somehow, in my head one night, it just became The New Pornographers,” he told Chart magazine back in May.
To date, the eight-member band has released five albums, with the latest – “Together” – having hit stores early May. The group hails from Vancouver, British Columbia.