Category Archives: Photo Gallery

Phantogram 1/14/17, Rochester, NY

Dates: January 14, 2017

Location: Main Street Armory, Rochester NY

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Onstage at the Main Street Armory in Rochester, the indie band thrilled the crowd and had a flawless sound.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY APRIL S. ENGRAM

Seven years have quickly passed since Phantogram’s debut album Eyelid Movies; the 2010 release attracted media attention and garnered fans for their ability to balance pop, hip-hop, electronica and dreamy shoegaze all into one. The New York duo, Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, has come a long way since their formative days. After their catchy music caught the ears of industry veterans they’ve collaborated with acts such as hip-hop maven Big Boy and the eccentric alt-rock group Flaming Lips; further proof of their sonic chameleon abilities.

Perhaps this independent band is on the cusp of transcending the label “independent”; until then, Phantogram continues to tour extensively and made a stop in Rochester, NY while promoting their aptly named third LP, Three. Joining a long night of music, Phantogram was one of five bands performing at Main Street Armory. The roster included a mixture of alternative, pop, folk-rock with bands such as Bleeker, Judah & the Lion and headliner Grouplove; but, this biased BLURTer set her sights solely on Phantogram.

A sizable venue, Main Street Armory was the perfect venue for an indoor, winter festival. Able to hold a large audience concert-goers either milled in front of the stage or flowing about the outskirts drinking or smoking profusely while scores of music goers assured their spot centerstage. Billed to perform before the last act Phantogram played a slightly shorter set and had one hour to command the stage; they did just that.

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Touring with Nicholas Shelestak on effects and keys and Chris Carhart on drums, Phantogram’s sonic elixir enchanted their fans as the audience cheered, danced and jumped along to the music. Every song they performed sounded great as Barthel threw her hands in the air to pump up the audience during songs and fans happily joined her. Playing songs from their three LPs and EP Nightlife, Barthel and Carter played mostly high octane tracks to the delight of the crowd.

Opening with older songs first, Phantogram didn’t waste time getting the audience excited with the danceable “Black Out Days,” “Don’t Move” and “Fall in Love.” Early hits “When I’m Small” and their first big single “Mouthful of Diamonds” were met with loud cheers and hands thrown into the air. A multi instrumental band Barthel switched between her keyboard and bass while Carter played guitar and effects. Even the slightly mellower, ballad-esque “The Answer” from Three, sung by both Carter and Barthel was a thrilling performance as the bridge of the song gives way to an explosion of guitar and drums; the drumming was exciting to see live as Carhart feverishly and methodically banged on his set.

An exciting band, Phantogram sounded flawless live. Only room for improvement, if only they were not part of a music festival this night and could’ve played a longer set.

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Setlist:

Black Out Days

Don’t Move

Fall in Love

Same Old Blues

Answer

When I’m Small

Mouthful of Diamonds

Howling at the Moon

You’re Mine

Cruel World

You Don’t Get Me High Anymore

Steve Gunn / Lee Ranaldo / Meg Baird 1/12/17, Winooski VT

Dates: January 12, 2017

Location: Winooski United Methodist Church, Winooski, Vermont

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The holy altar of the Winooski United Methodist Church proved to be the perfect setting for the three guitarists’ metaphysical musical mantras.

BY JENNIFER KELLY / PHOTOS BY BRITTAIN SHORTER

Three guitar players — two known primarily for acid folk, a third a veteran of noisy alternative-nation skree — convened in a blue-lit church off the main drag in a scruffy-but-gentrifying Vermont town for a night, and it was magic.

Meg Baird started off, seated on a stool, cool and unmoving as she played her eerily beautiful acoustic tunes. No hint of the Heron Oblivion keener here, nor of the battering drums of Watery Love, she stuck largely to material from 2015’s Don’t Weigh Down the Light, limpid, lucid cascades of guitar coursing like water through the air waves, her clean, high voice soaring effortlessly towards the rafters. “I Don’t Mind” came first, folky jangle intact, but minus the spectral slide of the record. It was gorgeous anyway, its soft vocal melodies curving flute-y arcs in the air and closing in a whispered, “When the night reaches out, I will be there, I don’t mind, no I don’t mind.”

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Baird dipped back further into the catalogue for agile, light-fingered “The Land Turned Over,” which intersperses bluegrass-y twang into its guitar architecture and a country warble into Baird’s phrasings. “Mosquito Hawks” wandered closest into rock, with its slow, baroque finger work, punctuated by booming chords and strident, dissonant runs, while “Don’t Weigh Down the Light,” was, as you might expect, luminous with swelling light, guitar notes dropping like rounded beads of water into the stillness, Baird’s voice soft but piercing, exactly the way you’d expect a shaft of moonlight to sound if it sounded at all.

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Lee Ranaldo went next, also bringing an acoustic guitar but putting it to louder, more anarchic use. Loops, pedals and, in the first song, a bow, elicited squalls of thunder from a succession of unassuming wooden instruments. Close your eyes, and it might have been Sonic Youth. Ranaldo played songs from an album he’d just recorded with novelist Jonathan Lethem writing lyrics, so none of the material was familiar. The first cut, the one with the bowing and massed (and massive) overtones, was a Lou Reed-ish spoken word travelogue type of thing redolent of open highways and mind altering substances. “Let’s Start Again” felt more like conventional rock (the opening guitar bit reminded me of Neil Young’s “Old Man”), but it blossomed through looping and layering into a powerful, transforming racket. You wanted to check to make sure it was just one guitar still. (Though not always the same guitar. Ranaldo was the only one of the night to bring a rack of instruments and a guitar tech to keep them in tune.)

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There were a couple of other new songs, one called “Circular” about the repetitiveness of daily life, another called “Electric Trim” with some more impressive feedback, and a composition called “Uncle Skeleton,” which moved from goofy country to blistering noise and, somewhere in there, broke out that “face bone is connected to the neck bone” ditty. Overall, the new material seemed a bit less indie rock, a little more sound experimental than his last solo album. I only wrote down R.E.M. once, and I had just jotted down Velvet Underground (bullshit reference, by the way, all it means is rock with some buzz around the guitars) when he closed with a cover of VU’s “Oceans.”

***

Steve Gunn closed with a low-key but wonderful set that seemed both effortless and really difficult. Only when you watch him do you realize how much he’s doing with his long elegant fingers, how quickly and precisely he moves them though complicated chord changes, bends and pull-offs. When you listen, it all sounds supremely laid back and day-dream-y, but as Yeats said about something entirely different, “we must labor to be beautiful.”

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It was “Night Wander” right off the bat, Gunn executing the glittering runs of Television-like notes in between terse verses about black cats and nocturnal rambles. Gunn seemed to be in a contemplative mood, as he introduced “Old Strange” (from 2013’s Time Off) as a song he’d written when an old friend disappeared; he was just as lost now, he admitted, on the eve of the Trump inauguration. The song is a slow, drone-y blues, a remnant of days when Gunn was primarily known as a guitar picker, but it had an undercurrent of angst as he played, the sharp starts of guitar like yelps when someone pokes a bruise. “Milly’s Garden” may have also had a Trump-ish undertone. When I interviewed Gunn a couple of years ago, he explained that it was inspired by a religious neighbor who kind of freaked him out. The line, “Your faith is savage, and your mind is damaged, you’re halfway home,” resonates in an eerie way now. Two songs from the new album, Eyes on the Lines came after, “Ark,” breaking its chiming chords and murmured folk jams for some guitar shredding and even a little bit of wah, and “Park Bench Smile” with its spiraling, baroque guitar figures, the song that welcomes you in, then pins you there, eyes pin wheeling to the psychedelic patterns that you see.

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Perhaps because he was in a church, Gunn got to reminiscing about the last show his father had attended before passing away, at what sounds like the chapel at First Unitarian Church in Philly. Gunn went over to say hi, and noticed his dad had a beer in his hand and asked how it felt to be drinking a beer in church for the first time. Mr. Gunn countered, “This is not my first time.” And with that, Gunn launched into “Wildwood,” a song at least partly about summers on the Jersey Shore, and sad and sweet and folky as the story he told.

I was a little disappointed that the three artists didn’t get a chance to jam together, as they did at other venues, certainly Chicago, later in the tour. But maybe the thing to remember is not that their show at a little church in a little town in Vermont shut down early, but that it happened at all.

Photos courtesy of Brittain Shorter of Winooski’s Section Sign Records – a big BLURT thank-you! www.sectionsignrecords.com / www.soundcloud.com/sectionsignrecords

Link to the concert promoter: https://www.facebook.com/WakingWindows/

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Portraits of a Rock Band on Fire: Parquet Courts

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“Fight back!” On February 11, the Artist Sometimes Known as Parkay Quarts stormed the gates of Atlanta’s Terminal West venue, ultimately selling out (the venue, not the band). And we were there.
Photo Gallery By John Boydston

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Bigger galleries of this and other curiosities in rock and nature are at jobo.smugmug.com
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Bill Laurance, 2/6/17, Raleigh NC

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Snarky Puppy dude turns Raleigh venue the Pour House into a 21st century jazz haven.

PHOTOS AND TEXT BY TODD GUNSHER

On a typically quiet Monday night, GroundUp Music artist Bill Laurance (one of the Snarky Puppy crew) brought some 21st century jazz to Raleigh’s Pour House.  Following area jazzers Eric Hirsh Quartet, keyboardsman Laurence took the stage for a well received 90 minute set. Laurance, Jamison Ross (drums), Chris Smith (bass) and Felix Higginbottom (percussion) packed the stage with various instruments both acoustic and electronic, and filled the room with stellar musicianship, rhythms from around the world and outside the box compositions.

I didn’t get all the song titles, but mid-set Laurance spoke of how the original Cosmos inspired “Aftersun” and later, of writing “Money In The Desert” while on a trip to Dubai. Many of the compositions featured Ross & Felix who weaved together complex rhythms that Smith would glide into while Laurance floated above. Whether he wowed us with a quick run or an extended chord it always sounded just right.

Laurance is currently on a solo tour hitting a handful of east coast cities before heading to Europe. If you’re into modern instrumental jazz and don’t know Snarky Puppy you should, and if you do know them then you definitely need to check out Bill Laurance who brings his own take on that sound.

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ACOUSTIC CHURCH MUSIC: Steve Gunn, Lee Ranaldo, Meg Baird

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The holy altar of the Winooski United Methodist Church proved to be the perfect setting for the three guitarists’ metaphysical musical mantras. Above: Steve Gunn.

BY JENNIFER KELLY / PHOTOS BY BRITTAIN SHORTER

Three guitar players — two known primarily for acid folk, a third a veteran of noisy alternative-nation skree — convened in a blue-lit church off the main drag in a scruffy-but-gentrifying Vermont town for a night, and it was magic.

Meg Baird started off, seated on a stool, cool and unmoving as she played her eerily beautiful acoustic tunes. No hint of the Heron Oblivion keener here, nor of the battering drums of Watery Love, she stuck largely to material from 2015’s Don’t Weigh Down the Light, limpid, lucid cascades of guitar coursing like water through the air waves, her clean, high voice soaring effortlessly towards the rafters. “I Don’t Mind” came first, folky jangle intact, but minus the spectral slide of the record. It was gorgeous anyway, its soft vocal melodies curving flute-y arcs in the air and closing in a whispered, “When the night reaches out, I will be there, I don’t mind, no I don’t mind.”

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Baird dipped back further into the catalogue for agile, light-fingered “The Land Turned Over,” which intersperses bluegrass-y twang into its guitar architecture and a country warble into Baird’s phrasings. “Mosquito Hawks” wandered closest into rock, with its slow, baroque finger work, punctuated by booming chords and strident, dissonant runs, while “Don’t Weigh Down the Light,” was, as you might expect, luminous with swelling light, guitar notes dropping like rounded beads of water into the stillness, Baird’s voice soft but piercing, exactly the way you’d expect a shaft of moonlight to sound if it sounded at all.

dsc_7713-1

Lee Ranaldo went next, also bringing an acoustic guitar but putting it to louder, more anarchic use. Loops, pedals and, in the first song, a bow, elicited squalls of thunder from a succession of unassuming wooden instruments. Close your eyes, and it might have been Sonic Youth. Ranaldo played songs from an album he’d just recorded with novelist Jonathan Lethem writing lyrics, so none of the material was familiar. The first cut, the one with the bowing and massed (and massive) overtones, was a Lou Reed-ish spoken word travelogue type of thing redolent of open highways and mind altering substances. “Let’s Start Again” felt more like conventional rock (the opening guitar bit reminded me of Neil Young’s “Old Man”), but it blossomed through looping and layering into a powerful, transforming racket. You wanted to check to make sure it was just one guitar still. (Though not always the same guitar. Ranaldo was the only one of the night to bring a rack of instruments and a guitar tech to keep them in tune.)

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There were a couple of other new songs, one called “Circular” about the repetitiveness of daily life, another called “Electric Trim” with some more impressive feedback, and a composition called “Uncle Skeleton,” which moved from goofy country to blistering noise and, somewhere in there, broke out that “face bone is connected to the neck bone” ditty. Overall, the new material seemed a bit less indie rock, a little more sound experimental than his last solo album. I only wrote down R.E.M. once, and I had just jotted down Velvet Underground (bullshit reference, by the way, all it means is rock with some buzz around the guitars) when he closed with a cover of VU’s “Oceans.”

***

Steve Gunn closed with a low-key but wonderful set that seemed both effortless and really difficult. Only when you watch him do you realize how much he’s doing with his long elegant fingers, how quickly and precisely he moves them though complicated chord changes, bends and pull-offs. When you listen, it all sounds supremely laid back and day-dream-y, but as Yeats said about something entirely different, “we must labor to be beautiful.”

dsc_7856-1

dsc_7833-1

It was “Night Wander” right off the bat, Gunn executing the glittering runs of Television-like notes in between terse verses about black cats and nocturnal rambles. Gunn seemed to be in a contemplative mood, as he introduced “Old Strange” (from 2013’s Time Off) as a song he’d written when an old friend disappeared; he was just as lost now, he admitted, on the eve of the Trump inauguration. The song is a slow, drone-y blues, a remnant of days when Gunn was primarily known as a guitar picker, but it had an undercurrent of angst as he played, the sharp starts of guitar like yelps when someone pokes a bruise. “Milly’s Garden” may have also had a Trump-ish undertone. When I interviewed Gunn a couple of years ago, he explained that it was inspired by a religious neighbor who kind of freaked him out. The line, “Your faith is savage, and your mind is damaged, you’re halfway home,” resonates in an eerie way now. Two songs from the new album, Eyes on the Lines came after, “Ark,” breaking its chiming chords and murmured folk jams for some guitar shredding and even a little bit of wah, and “Park Bench Smile” with its spiraling, baroque guitar figures, the song that welcomes you in, then pins you there, eyes pin wheeling to the psychedelic patterns that you see.

dsc_7824-1

Perhaps because he was in a church, Gunn got to reminiscing about the last show his father had attended before passing away, at what sounds like the chapel at First Unitarian Church in Philly. Gunn went over to say hi, and noticed his dad had a beer in his hand and asked how it felt to be drinking a beer in church for the first time. Mr. Gunn countered, “This is not my first time.”  And with that, Gunn launched into “Wildwood,” a song at least partly about summers on the Jersey Shore, and sad and sweet and folky as the story he told.

I was a little disappointed that the three artists didn’t get a chance to jam together, as they did at other venues, certainly Chicago, later in the tour. But maybe the thing to remember is not that their show at a little church in a little town in Vermont shut down early, but that it happened at all.

Photos courtesy of Brittain Shorter of Winooski’s Section Sign Records – a big BLURT thank-you! www.sectionsignrecords.com / www.soundcloud.com/sectionsignrecords

Link to the concert promoter: https://www.facebook.com/WakingWindows/

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Red Hot Chili Peppers 1/12/17, Memphis

Dates: January 12, 2017

Location: FedEx Forum, Memphis TN

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TEXT & PHOTOS BY MARK JACKSON

On the eve of Friday the 13th, the Red Hot Chili Peppers brought The Getaway tour to the home of the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tn.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been grooving since 1983. They came together while they were still in high school and have been rocking ever since. The band have had ups and downs along the way, but the band has always found a way to keep going and make chart topping hits. The new album was released in 2016 and has also quickly climbed the charts. This album is opening the Peppers up to a new generation of fans, while reminding us long time fans why they have always been one of our favorite bands ever! The RHCP’s will also be co-headlining the 2017 Bonnaroo festival this June in Tennessee. Look for Blurt’s extensive coverage of the Peppers and all other acts from the farm.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have always had a strong stage presence and they haven’t lost any energy over the years. At one point during the show Flea even did a hand stand and walked two thirds of the stage, that is impressive at any age little alone at 54 years young.

The show was a great mix of new and older music. My only wish is that the show could have been three to four hours long so that I could have relived more of the classics. There are just too many great songs to squeeze into a concert.

The Peppers have taken the light show to a whole new level. The entire length of the floor had the ceiling area covered with LED light tubes that could not only change color, but also being on metal cords. They could be lifted and lowered at will to make patterns such as a wave effects and patterns. This was the first time I’ve seen anything like this, but I suspect it won’t be the last!

Drummer Chad Smith was spotted in a local club on Beale Street sitting in and jamming with a local band the night before the concert. He must have had a good night in town because as the band came back out for the encore Chad was sporting a Memphis As Fu*k shirt.

The guys are headlining festivals and touring most of 2017, so make sure this is one show you don’t miss!

Text and Photos by: Mark Jackson / Instagram: @markjacksonphotography1  / Email: Mjaj93@bellsouth.net

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Brian Wilson 9/9/16, Atlanta

Dates: September 9, 2016

Location: Fox Theatre, Atlanta GA

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Return of the king, and his world-wide wrecking crew. No Mikes allowed.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY JOHN BOYDSTON

Dear BLURT – here’s my gallery from the brilliant Brian Wilson Live show at the fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta, on Friday September 9th. I don’t have much copy to add on this except to say I remember when seeing The Beach Boys was more about a sloppy beer-soaked sunburned day than about the music. But seeing Brian Wilson live these days is not a Beach Boys concert. It is experiencing the genius of Brian Wilson, as he leads a new hand-picked Wrecking Crew through most of his greatest songs, including all of his acclaimed “Pet Sounds” LP in its entirety, which turned 50 this year, all with the elegance, grace, wit, and top-class musicianship you would expect.

Sorry for all the wide-angle shots but the stage was so full of players; it’s what was going on, so I tried to capture some of that. Even in the widest of shots I don’t think you can see all 11-players up there in a single photo. Al Jardine is part of this ensemble, and carries so much of this show I was amazed to learn how much of the Beach Boys sound he is responsible for. And Al’s son, Matthew (back row, right), takes over the vocals on the songs where Brian can’t hit the falsetto parts, and does so flawlessly.

Just a brilliant performance by all, fun to watch, fun to hear, fun to experience. Tour dates through September and October are at http://www.brianwilson.com/tour/.

PS – the Fox Theater was packed for this show – and I didn’t hear anyone say – “I wish Mike Love was here.” #Mikewho?

Sincerely, John Boydston [Who can be found on Instagram as @rockdawgphoto so visit there and follow if you like pics of everything great.]

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Turkuaz and New Mastersounds 12/14/16, Raleigh, NC

Dates: December 14, 2016

Location: Lincoln Theater, Raleigh NC

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On a chilly mid-December Wednesday night, Turkuaz and the New Mastersounds (above) brought the heat to the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, NC.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY TODD GUNSHER

This was one of the last dates on the co-headlining tour they have been on since early October and it was clear that they two bands have been having a good time together.

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First up was Turkuaz (photos above) whose nine members filled up almost every square foot of the stage. This was my first Turkuaz experience and I immediately got into the groove and wondered how I’d not seen them earlier. Funky grooves, horns, great vocals and even the occasional talk-box made it impossible for anyone in the audience to stand still. Sure, I could throw out song titles like “20 Dollar Bill”, “M’Lady”, or the closer “Monkey Fingers”, but the entire set was a highlight. While each musician had their time in the spotlight, it’s the tight ensemble playing that puts this band over the top.

***

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After the stage was cleared, the New Mastersounds (above and below) were on, with all four members right up front, drums, bass, guitar and organ in a tight line, straight across the stage. Where Turkuaz brings the funk, New Mastersounds are more firmly rooted in the soul-jazz world. Filling in on drums was Soullive’s Alan Evans, he and bassist Pete Shand were locked in so tight you’d think they’ve been playing together for years, a sign of true masters of their craft. The playing of Eddie Roberts (guitar) and Joe Tatton (organ) is some of the best I’ve heard in a while, loosely tight, with plenty of energy.

Midway through the set, Greg Sanderson from Turkuaz came out to add some sax to ”I Am Somebody”, and then all the horns joined the band along with local vocalist Charly Lowry to lead the primarily instrumental group in a “Enough Is Enough” and “Joe”.

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For the encore, all the members of both bands filled up the stage to play “On The Border” and “The Rules” to close out an excellent night of funk, soul and jazz.

 

Pussy Riot 11/7/16, Los Angeles

Dates: November 7, 2016

Location: Regent Theatre, Los Angeles

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The Russkies are on a Putin-baiting, talkin’-loud U.S. tour (details HERE, including a stop this week at BLURT’s western getaway), and on Nov. 7 in Los Angeles, they baited pretty much everybody. Check the videos following the photo gallery – if you dare, particularly if the last week was, er, a trying one for you….

TEXT & PHOTOS BY SUSAN MOLL

Author and activist Carol Hanisch astutely observed that the personal is political—an axiom that holds as much water today as it did in 1969– and there’s no one more familiar with the concept than the Pussy Riot. The world watched, aghast, as its personnel were whipped, beaten, pepper-sprayed and imprisoned for daring to engage in public protest. Russia’s most famous musical dissidents visited the Regent Theater in downtown Los Angeles on the night before the most bizarre, ugly, sad, painful and disillusioning election this great nation has ever witnessed, a dumpster fire, a slow-motion freeway pileup, a national shame that delivered an even more shameful verdict.

Artist and activist Shepard Fairey moderated the conversation between Maria “Masha” Alyokhina of Pussy Riot; Alexandra “Sasha” Bogino, a reporter for Mediazona, the band’s own independent news service; Sergey Smirnov, Mediazona’s editor-in-chief; and Allison Wolfe, who cemented her place in riot grrrl immortality as a member of Bratmobile. Wolfe, now a student of journalism and vocalist for the east-L.A. indie foursome Sex Stains, voiced her admiration for her comrades’ many sacrifices. “I think a lot of us take for granted what we don’t have to deal with,” she admitted. “It’s not like any of us riot grrrls ever thought we were at risk of going to jail.”

Ticketholders griped about the 45-minute delay; it was a work night, after all. The event was billed as a “conversation” so Pussy Riot didn’t perform (we held out hope until the very end, though.) The questions posed them were rambling and trite, and there was nary a balaclava in sight. For an event for a group that released a single called “Straight Outta Vagina,” there was sure a lot of dick talk: Artist Petr Pavlensky, who aired his grievances with Russia’s political situation by nailing his giblets to the cobblestones paving Red Square; and the giant phallus that someone painted on a drawbridge in St. Petersburg. (It remained fully erect for four hours.)

Smirnov presented the trailer for the forthcoming Pussy Riot documentary Act and Punishment and discussed the dangers Russian journalists face, which are legion: kidnappings, car bombs, imprisonment and worse. The President-elect’s festering animosity towards the “dishonest” media, coupled with his bromance with Vladimir Putin, is more than enough to give the American press pause. As Alyokhina said, before ending the night on a vote-for-Hillary note, said, “I feel that I need to give support, which I received, to other people who need it.” At this, a time of unprecedented hostility towards women, the conditions are ripe for the emergence of fourth-wave feminism. As America trades one national nightmare for another, we forecast a new crop of Pussy Riots to set free the rage of civil anger. After all, patriarchy is boring.

…………

Below: Sasha Bogino and Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot, plus Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile/Sex Stains):

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Petr Pavlensky and his nutsack:petr_pavlensky

Screen shots from trailer for new documentary:

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