Audible boos were heard from the crowd early in the night when Fred Penner said their name, and the tension continued to rise until Wolf Parade/Operators' Dan Boeckner introduced the band.
Boeckner described a "mountain of ink, Twitter posts, conversations public and private, arguments, a mountain of words, hurt, crazy accusations, regret" about the band's name. Further, he said "it's time for understanding. It's time to heal up, because the world is a dark place.... When our vibrant arts community tears itself apart over issues, the forces of darkness stand around us and rub their sweaty fucking palms together. Our efforts are needed, our energy is needed, but they're needed for dire issues." He went on to introduce them as "Matt, Monty, Danny and Mike."
The words did not exactly sit well with Jon McCurley, who co-runs Double Double Land and recently spoke with Exclaim! about why he finds the Viet Cong name insulting. For the Polaris gala, he was part of a group who created and disseminated some anti-Viet Cong T-shirts, one of which was worn by presenter Simone Schmidt while onstage. Through a series of Facebook posts, McCurley described a verbal spat he had with members of Viet Cong and Boeckner outside of the venue.
Naturally, Viet Cong's Polaris appearance spread around social media like wildfire. While neither Boeckner nor the members of Viet Cong responded, Boeckner's Operators bandmate Devojka opted to defend him on Twitter.
Dev here re: everyone bummed about Dan's lack of apology-it's not his job to apologize. it's his job to introduce the band #Polaris2015— Operators The Band (@Operators_Band) September 22, 2015
#Polaris2015 & honestly, if you know anything about Dan & where he has made it a point to travel & bring music to people...— Operators The Band (@Operators_Band) September 22, 2015
...you'd know he's not all willy-nilly "chill out, nerds" about this. god, i hope he doesn't say something really dumb right now and make me— Operators The Band (@Operators_Band) September 22, 2015
regret standing up from him. but even if his mouth parts do something dumb, his heart & his actions have done a hell of a lot more than most— Operators The Band (@Operators_Band) September 22, 2015
but i digress. people can apologize with more than just words. i'm removed from the situation & don't care about anything b/c: nihilism BUT— Operators The Band (@Operators_Band) September 22, 2015
if i were to put my normal human hat on, i'd call this one of those learning/growing/having tough discussions things.— Operators The Band (@Operators_Band) September 22, 2015
Owen Pallett, who presented Polaris winner Buffy Sainte-Marie earlier that night, also seemingly referenced Viet Cong's Polaris intro with a Facebook post:
As previously reported, Viet Cong recently announced plans to change their name when they release their next album in 2016. "We are a band of four people with four individual voices; this debate has been long and difficult for us and it took time for everyone to settle on a plan of action," they said in a statement. "We don't know what the new name of our band will be, and we owe it to our fans to honour the concerts we have booked. We rushed into our last band name decision, we don't plan to rush into this one, but know that will be rolling out a new name as soon as we agree upon one."