DFW Music News

Pussy Riot Is Back in Town and the Timing Could Not Be Better or Worse

Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova performed a live, outdoor set in October at Thunderbird Station during last year's Dallas Reproductive Liberation March.
Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova performed a live, outdoor set in October at Thunderbird Station during last year's Dallas Reproductive Liberation March. Karlo X Ramos
The world is an unraveling mess. Russia is trying to push the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock way past midnight as Russian President Vladimir Putin invades Ukraine.

The creeping influence of politics isn't doing much to douse the growing flames of intolerance and apathy as Europe fears the start of another world war.

The rest of the world feels like it's still in a perpetual state of helpless shock as Russian troops move in on  Ukraine. So far, Dallas has lit up its skyline in blue and yellow lights, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, and boycotted Russian vodka.

A concert may not sound like a solution right now, but if there's one group whose sound and style can offer some kind of semblance of one, it's the Russian political powerhouse Pussy Riot featuring its singer Nadya Tolokonnikova and some special surprise guests. The dissident diva of protest punk will perform a DJ set starting at 10:30 pm Saturday at Ruins in Deep Ellum.

Josh Smith, the co-founder of the marketing and live music production group Banjos to Beats, who helped bring Pussy Riot back to Dallas, says Saturday's show with Pussy Riot founder Nadya Tolokonnikova runs in conjunction with the tour dates of Marina and the Diamonds, fronted by Marina Diamandis. Tolokonnikova will also open for Diamandis at an 8 p.m. show Saturday at The Factory in Deep Ellum. The two released a collaborative, satirical single called "Purge the Poison" last spring.

Banjo to Beats first brought the group to Dallas in October for a protest show at Thunderbird Station as part of the Dallas Reproductive Liberation March following Texas' six-week abortion ban measure that went into effect a month before that show.

"[Tolokonnikova's] supporting a short run with Marina that stops through Dallas this Saturday," Smith says. "We had been looking at bringing her back in 2022, and the dates just aligned perfectly with the Marina tour and the unrest in Ukraine. The opportunity presented itself to do a super intimate show together so we all jumped on it."

Scheduling dates weren't the only challenge for bringing Pussy Riot back to Dallas. Smith says Facebook hasn't helped get the word out because the group's name keeps flagging the social media company's profanity censors.

"Facebook has completely blocked us from promoting anything that says Pussy Riot so we are really relying on grassroots efforts this time," Smith says. "We are completely hogtied. I guess it's cool for Russian bots to influence our elections but promoting a Russian protest band with the word 'Pussy" in the band name is a bridge too far."

The feminist punk protest group founded by Tolokonnikova in 2011 started a global movement in 2012 with their famous "A Punk Prayer" performance at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The song took some hard shots at the church's outspoken support for Putin's anti-LGBTQ measures as church officials tried to wreck the show right in the middle of the song.
Russian police arrested band members Tolokinnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich several weeks later for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" and detained them in harsh jail conditions for months without bail before a court sentenced them to two years in prison. Fans and music critics applauded the group's artistic activism. U.K. newspaper The Guardian called the band's performance one of the greatest art pieces of the 21st century.

The group's neon colored balaclavas and signature sound sparked a wave of debate across Russia and support across the rest of the world. Sting, Madonna and the Red Hot Chili Peppers called for and mobilized support for the group as Tolokonnikova was sent to a Siberian penal colony to serve her sentence, where she went on a hunger strike to protest her harsh treatment and staff abuses. Russia's Parliament responded to the global backlash the following December by signing an amnesty law that released her and at least 20,000 other prisoners, which Alyokhina described as a PR stunt to avoid conflict with the upcoming Winter Olympics the following year.

Pussy Riot's members have stepped up their activism by establishing several human rights groups to help prisoners incarcerated by Russia's harsh prison systems. Tolokonnikova also dropped a four-part NFT series to raise money for relief efforts in the war-torn regions of Ukraine in conjunction with the music video for "Panic Attack" off the group's fifth album PUNISH.

Pussy Riot will perform a DJ set at 10:30 pm on Saturday, March 5 at Ruins located at 2653 Commerce St. in Deep Ellum. Tickets are available at SquadUp.com. No one under the age of 21 will be admitted. Pussy Riot will also open for Marina and the Diamonds at 8 p.m. at The Factory in Deep Ellum. Tickets are available online at thefactoryindeepellum.com.
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.