Skip to main content
kate taylor

Even cover bands won't play Donald Trump's party.

In the latest blow to celebrations surrounding the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States, a Bruce Springsteen tribute band has pulled out of an unofficial gala in Washington: The B Street Band, which was signed to the gig back in 2013, finally cancelled Monday after weeks of criticism, saying it had too much regard for Springsteen, who has been highly critical of Trump, to play.

Meanwhile, the artistic lineups for both Thursday's "Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration," and Friday's presidential inauguration are so feeble it would be funny – if the future of the free world weren't at stake. How is anyone supposed to celebrate the restoration of American greatness with the runner-up of a talent contest and not quite all of the Rockettes?

Read more: David Shribman: Trump's nearing presidency leaves a world of uncertainty

From Obama to Trump: An inside look at the transfer of power in the U.S. government

A look inside Palm Beach, where wealthy Canadians are one degree of separation from Donald Trump

With only two days to go to Thursday's concert, the lineup now features actor Jon Voight, a vocal Trump supporter, saying a few words, YouTube instrumental cover artists The Piano Guys and 3 Doors Down, a group of forgotten nineties alt-rockers that one British newspaper described as "Budget Nickelback." Meanwhile, Jackie Evancho, who was a runner-up on America's Got Talent, will sing the U.S. national anthem at Friday's ceremony.

One of the bigger names on offer at Thursday's concert, country singer Toby Keith, has defended his decision to play for his country. Broadway star Jennifer Holliday thought that was what she was doing until outraged gay and lesbian fans told her otherwise and she decided to cancel. The Rockettes, meanwhile, were finally told by their management they could follow their consciences – three members of the troupe have declined to perform. Paul Anka, a friend of Trump's, says he has a prior engagement with his kid, so he won't be singing My Way.

Meanwhile, a large number of A-listers are reported to have politely declined invitations to perform, including Céline Dion, Garth Brooks and Elton John, while Moby, the electronic musician who had called Trump a sociopath in an editorial in Rolling Stone, laughingly took to Instagram to reject a request to play DJ. Many others, such as high-profile Hillary Clinton supporters Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, were presumably never asked.

This show of anti-Trump solidarity is without precedent. B Street front-man Will Forte had tried to explain the band was celebrating the office not the man; after all, it had played the same event organized by the New Jersey State Society for both Barack Obama's inaugurations – while the Boss himself played the official event in Washington along with Beyoncé and Stevie Wonder. Nobody boycotted George W. Bush after his controversial win over Al Gore in the 2000 election; he was feted with music performed by Ricky Martin, 98 Degrees, Jessica Simpson, Destiny's Child, Lyle Lovett and ZZ Top.

In the past, entertainers have avoided making political judgments on paying gigs and there are several notorious examples of Hollywood celebs, including Kevin Costner, Sharon Stone and Mariah Carey, making paid appearances for foreign leaders as dubious as Vladimir Putin and Muammar Gaddafi.

Clearly, the A-list knows more about U.S. domestic politics than it does about foreign affairs – Holliday's claim that she initially agreed to perform because she "wasn't aware of the issues" seems unbelievable – and the entertainers are united with a highly usual degree of solidarity against a uniquely divisive president-elect.

Trump has said he'd rather party with the people than the celebs, but whether he's tweeting back ripostes or not, there's no doubt the collective snub is deeply felt by a man whose public reputation was built on a reality-show.

So where is this going to lead? Unfortunately, the United States looks ripe for another round of those reactionary fights against artists that characterized the 1990s. The careers of a Moby or a Meryl Streep (who criticized Trump in a Golden Globes acceptance speech) might be immune to political backlash. What Trump supporter listens to Moby? Who is going to organize a Streep boycott?

But the larger artistic community may pay: The most obvious target for Trump's pique could be the National Endowment for the Arts. America's modestly scaled government arts council has often found itself the target of outraged Republicans and would be first in line if the administration decides it's payback time.

America's entertainers are going to need to stick together under Trump: another culture war may well be on its way.