Rock band condemned for concert at an event backed by Russian army

Pop rock act Brainstorm - the most popular band in Latvia by a long shot - has provoked the ire of their fans by performing at a rock festival in which the Russian army took an active role, reported a story on Latvian Television yesterday.

Brainstorm gained some international popularity by performing My Star in the 2000 Eurovision contest, where they scooped 3rd place. Their videos have appeared on MTV. In Latvia, they are idols of the 80s and 90s generation, releasing one hit album after another and having even their foreign tours covered in the media.

However, because of Brainstorm's lack of a firm political spine, their stars just might fall - away from the hearts of their Latvian fans. This is exacerbated by the fact that previously the act had refused to condemn the arrest of Russian punk band Pussy Riot for voicing anti-Putin rhetoric.

The Russian festival Nashestvie, in which Brainstorm participated, is the largest rock music celebration in Russia, often compared to Latvia's own Positivus. It's attended by some 200,000 people, and this year it was also a recruitment ground for the Russian army.

Tanks, military parades, flyovers by Russian planes and calls for joining the army, interspersed with war songs, made up a significant part of the festival.

Latvian artists face pressure for playing in Russia. Many, like theater director Alvis Hermanis, have refused performances altogether. In contrast, according to LETA news agency, Brainstorm had found a biblical justification for playing in Russia. In late May, Renārs Kaupers, the lead singer, said that the Bible "doesn't say you have to turn your back on anyone". 

Brainstorm was one of the headliners, performing on the central stage and reportedly starting their concert with the words "We come with peace and love". The flag symbolizing Crimea's integration into Russia could be seen during their performance.

Artists who have refused to participate in Russian projects, such as Ziedonis Ločmelis who recently turned down a screen role in a production backed by the Russian state, mostly condemn Brainstorm's participation in the festival, citing fame and money as possible reasons for going to Russia.

On the other hand, an attendee to the festival told Latvian Television that "Only when you're there yourself, taking in the elation and emotions and good cheer while being there - you just cannot forget things like that. Brainstorm did everything absolutely right by going there." 

After days of silence, Brainstorm had this to say to their fans: "We play our music to people, not flags, and we think that culture, just like sports, should stand over politics, as it's a direct link to people in the language of the heart."

Reactions on Twitter have been divided, ranging from utter condemnation to confusion over what the fuss is about.

"Today, #brainstorm should open their eventual concert in Donetsk with the song 'Where's my airplane'", said Jānis Tereško, referring to an early hit of the band.

"I don't understand you folks-when [Jazz singer Intars] Busulis performs on a Russian TV show, they are proud of it, but they want to eat Brainstorm alive when they perform in Russia. Where's the logic in that?"

Though the overall tone is closer to this:

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