Pussy Riot Is Coming to Dallas in April, and They’re Bringing a Movement With Them

Neil Krug
Feminist protest band Pussy Riot is playing in Dallas in April. Prepare for revolution.

Just yesterday I got a call from a dear friend of mine who had just walked out of her Planned Parenthood appointment in exasperation. She didn't have the cash to cover a routine wellness check with the tips she makes as a server, and the clinic lost federal funding support under President Donald Trump's "Protect Life Rule," so she had no choice but to skip her annual appointment.

"Fuck Trump," she says. "This is bullshit."

On Wednesday, Pussy Riot begin their second U.S. tour, starting in Santa Ana, California. And it couldn't come at a better time.

This will be the band's first march through the Southern states, with stops scheduled in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas in April. Their Dallas show will take place April 11 at Trees in Deep Ellum.

Pussy Riot is more than a band. It's a worldwide movement that takes up the fight for human rights wherever it goes.

"I'm just a human being who is free to choose who she is every day of her life," says singer Nadya Tolokonnikova. "Where I am? It doesn't matter to me because I actually live a nomadic life, and I am constantly moving somewhere."

And it is with that spirit of worldly citizenship that Pussy Riot brings their message to America, asking everyone to join the riot.

"I want to encourage people to be more politically active than they are," Tolokonnikova says. "I'm really inspired by examples like AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez], who has decided to change her life and dedicate her life to politics.

"I got a chance to meet her in New York when I was working on music a long time ago when she was still a bartender at this bar in Union Square. … Once she became a politician, she reminded me of that."

Doubling down on their effort to attract more political activists, Pussy Riot has called for local dancers to take the stage with them to show solidarity with every city they travel through.

"It's something we've been doing for years," Tolokonnikova says. "When you get a chance to work with a local dancer, sometimes they can tell you much more about what's happening in the city, what's happening with politics, what's happening with art in the city if you don't have the chance to explore it."

"This time we decided to go the legal way, but it didn't work out for us either." — Nadya Tolokonnikova

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The band has been a victim to local politics at home. Pussy Riot made international headlines when Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina were arrested after a demonstration inside Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior on Feb. 21, 2012. Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina served 21 months in prison for a charge of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred."

In February of this year, 13 people, including Tolokonnikova, were detained in St. Petersburg's police station No. 16 when local police broke up Pussy Riot's video shoot for "?????/RAGE" and were accused of creating gay propaganda, extremism and making an illegal video.

"We had a contract and everything was perfectly legal," Tolokonnikova says. "When they put us in jail back in 2012, all of the media and government propaganda were trying to convince us that if we just had a contract, [it would not have been considered] an illegal action with the church. …This time we decided to go the legal way, but it didn't work out for us either."

Held this time for only a matter of hours, Pussy Riot still lost $15,000 in production costs, which they are still trying to recoup. You can donate to the cause on the band's Facebook page and hear just a few seconds of their new material.

For all the press they receive for their activism, it is easy to forget that Pussy Riot is still a band — with instruments and everything.

"In 2011, when Putin announced that he was going to be the president for this third time — he didn't ask us [the Russian people], there were not elections — we were really unhappy about this statement," Tolokonnikova remembers. "We thought that there should be a band that was just about politics. At the time, it was not popular to have a political band. Now, we have much more political music."

Over the years, Pussy Riot has shifted styles, moving from punk rock to electroclash and most recently incorporating a lot of hip-hop — the dominant form of political music in Russia at the moment — but always remaining punk rock at their core.

For this tour, however, Pussy Riot is returning to their hard-rock roots — now with more confidence in their abilities as musicians.

"We'll have drums and guitar and people who really know how to play them," Tolokonnikova says with a laugh. "I'm so irritated that we were not able to release the song as planned before the tour because of the cops. ... It was supposed to be released on the 25th of February.

"The song 'Rage' was supposed to be the first single of tons of music that's going to come under the name Pussy Riot, and I'm so excited. On this tour, we're going to be playing old and new stuff from the new album, and they sound so hard. They're metal!"

Pussy Riot's most played song on Spotify is "Make America Great Again," a soft-yet-searing denouncement of the man who would become America's current president, his wall and the anti-woman policies that are affecting people like my friend every single day.

"I think he is a dangerous joke," Tolokonnikova says of Trump. "I'm still amazed by how many people support him. I see so many similarities between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin — their flexes, the way they treat media, they're intolerant to critics. ... The difference is that Putin actually has all the power to actually put his critics in jail. That's what he's done to us. Trump doesn't have it currently, but he has the same tendencies. I don't think it's safe for a misogynist to be in power."

I think my friend would agree.