So, what exactly happened? The petition is light on details, but some Internet sleuthing suggests that the current debacle started with British metalcore band Asking Alexandria, who was slated to play the 'Town next week until they were “banned” from performing. I've never heard of Asking Alexandria, but they claim that their “reckless image” resulted in them being banished from Fourth Avenue. They've since moved their “controversial” show to Cannery, but that still leaves Rocketown with some pretty upset metalcore fans on their hands.
I'll confess that I haven't been to a show at Rocketown in years — not since I was young, angry and unable to legally enjoy the simple pleasures of $2 PBRs at The End — but I was always under the impression that the bands booked there already went through a strict vetting process. This is, after all, a venture founded by Contemporary Christian honcho Michael W. Smith, and they make no bones about their status as a religious organization.
The response by Rocketown Executive Director ReGina Newkirk corroborates that gut feeling pretty strongly:
Thank you for caring so much about Rocketown! We love all of you and think it is amazing that you want to share your thoughts and views with the board and staff. Rocketown has been and will continue to be a faith-based venue that invites and welcomes all kids and their respective viewpoints. However, we want to make sure that we are being true to our mission in all that we do, which is to share Christ’s love through creative programs and mentoring relationship that are culturally relevant and eternally significant. Christian and non-Christian bands of varying genres will continue to play here, but we will more intentionally uphold our longstanding policies and guidelines that support of our mission.
Thank you for sharing your voice with all of us. It is a real testimony of the love you have for Rocketown and an affirmation of the great music venue that we believe Rocketown is. We — the board and staff — truly value you and your passion for Rocketown.
The question that remains unanswered is “What does that actually mean?” If Rocketown is indeed “censoring” bands (which is a harsh word to use under any circumstances), by what criteria are they doing so, and to what end? Is there a morality clause built into booking contracts at Rocketown, not unlike Belmont's content waiver for performers? At the moment, it's all rumors and gossip. We'll have more information as it comes to light.
[See also: DPR's case for Rocketown from back in 2010]