DFW Music News

Pussy Riot Came to Dallas to Yell 'No Wire Hangers Ever!'

Pussy Riot performed at the Dallas Reproductive Liberation March afterparty.
Pussy Riot performed at the Dallas Reproductive Liberation March afterparty. Andrew Sherman
It's a drive, a train ride to St. Paul Station and a walk down to Main Street Garden Park. The gathering was about screaming for equal rights — reproductive rights. And about speaking truth to power.

There was a chant. The call: “Fuck Greg Abbott.” The response: “And Ted Cruz.”

There was the sticking a middle finger up at counter-protestors gathered in small numbers on the steps of the University of North Texas law building. 

This was the scene at the Dallas Reproductive Liberation March. The Saturday march went through downtown Dallas, as the voices of those marching echoed off the sides of skyscrapers, before returning to the park for a rally followed by a ride down to Thunderbird Station.


The bar had anticipated a large crowd for the evening, ending table service a little before 4 p.m. because the marchers started filing in. The night’s performance was set to last from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m.

There were posters. There were shirts and patches and pins, all declaring opposition toward a government they feel has forgotten them.

The crowd was angry at the reason that brought them together, but happy to lend their voices to a cause. The event was for women of all backgrounds, for everyone who dares to call themselves a feminist.

Local DJ Sissy Ross began warming up the audience at 4:30 p.m. with a selection of girl-powered tracks in anticipation of the evening’s headliner.

The patio filled slowly with organizers, marchers and people who couldn’t make it to the march but sure as hell made a point to make it to this.

There were older women there who thought they’d never have to fight for this again, young women ready to take up the cause, women of all colors tired of being ignored, and men standing in solidarity.

There were so many people more people than you'd normally see out for a DJ set this early, gathered through the urgency for action.

There's that, yes, but also how often does Russia’s most outspoken critic of women’s oppression bless North Texas with her presence?

Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova was set to take the stage for her DJ set at 6:30 p.m., but as the clock ticked closer to the time, the crowd grew restless, dancing to “No Scrubs” as the organizers checked the mics.

Tolokonnikova walked in wearing a hot pink trench coat at 6:38 p.m., her hair dyed with blue streaks, her eyes dotted under the lower eyelids like a harlequin, holding a bottle of Champagne and a pack of cigarettes, all to the cheers of a restless audience.

Thunderbird Station owner Kim Finch had chills as Tolokonnikova took the stage at the event, which was far outside the ordinary of the bar’s usual events.

“She contacted us, asking how she could help,” Finch said of booking the artist.

Tolokonnikova opened with the Pussy Riot track “Hangerz.” The chorus — a chant, really — is “no wire hangers ever!” and, “My body does not need advice from a priest.”

At Tolokonnikova’s side were three dancers decked out in balaclavas and scantily clad for the cause of bodily autonomy.

The audience crowded the small stage — girls to the front, in classic riot grrrl fashion — as the DJ's tunes seamlessly flowed into the band's singalong summer song “Police State.”

At other times, Tolokonnikova sang over the track in her native Russian, reminding concertgoers that this is a global cause, that some women have it worse, and all were here to say “Fuck you.”

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“Oh my God, I’m so happy, I could die,” goes the chorus — a painful reminder that people often risk their lives at demonstrations. And while Saturday’s march went off without incident, last summer’s protests certainly still resonated in the minds of those who gathered together.

At times the set went hard. Tolokonnikova and company pogo-ed with the crowd, writhing in sexual liberation to their cheers. At one point, Tolokonnikova took her phone out to post how much support the group had garnered from Texans affected by Senate Bill 8, a recently enacted measure that effectively bans abortions at 6 weeks gestation.

At other times, Tolokonnikova sang over the track in her native Russian, reminding concertgoers that this is a global cause, that some women have it worse, and all were here to say “Fuck you.”

It wasn’t so important what Pussy Riot played, whether Tolokonnikova was actually singing or lip-syncing. What was important to the crowd was that she was there, shining out in the face of oppression — angry, eloquent and beautiful — playing music to bring people together who would otherwise not be there.

Halfway through her set, Tolokonnikova shed her pink trench coat as the music got harder and the audience grew more vocal, continuing to post the crowd to her socials while the dancers took to the tables.

As the music turned up, Tolokonnikova reminded the audience that “They're not going to get us” — a line sung by contemporaries t.A.T.u in the next track, but a message of hope for Texas women on a day like Saturday.
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David Fletcher writes about music, arts and culture for the Dallas Observer. You can usually find him at a show in Deep Ellum whether he's writing about it or not. A punk scholar and local music enthusiast, David focuses his attention on the artists screaming in the margins of Dallas' music scene.
Contact: David Fletcher