Category Archives: National

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KOLARS Shines, Surprises at Larimer Lounge

Photos by Michael McGrath, Story by Amy McGrath

I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff go down onstage at the Larimer Lounge, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen something on any rock stage that is truly surprising. Friday night with KOLARS changed that.

Musically, the band is a tight two-piece that alternately evokes The Kills and Bruce Springsteen. But KOLARS has a legit shtick: rather than sitting behind a kit, drummer Lauren Brown stands. On top of a bass drum. And tap dances. “She’s a badass!” crowed the North Carolinian truck driver next to me who had randomly chosen the Larimer as his music fix for the evening.

On top of the mesmerizing tap dancing drummer, KOLARS sparkles- visually and sonically. Singer Rob Kolars has a smoky-eyed sexiness that nicely suits his front man persona. And his powerfully kinetic, gorgeous drummer Lauren- is also his wife, bedecked in a mirror covered dress and equally dazzling smile.

KOLARS set featured infectious, driving rock songs that veered between a post-Goth Echo & The Bunnymen vibe of “Turn out the Lights” to the infectious disco groove of “Dizzy.” And just when I thought I had them figured out, KOLARS surprised again with the chugging train of “One More Thrill,” reminiscent of Springsteen’s “Working on the Highway.”

It’s hard not to cheer for a sexy, married creative partnership like Rob and Lauren’s- especially when the music is as inventive and fun as what KOLARS is making.


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Japan’s Guitar Wolf turns Denver’s Moon Room into Den of Fun

Photos by Michael McGrath, Story by Molly McGrath

There’s no better way to transition out of the strange patriotism and embarrassment  Fourth of July entails than immersing yourself in a wild punk show, and when Seiji of the Japanese rock band Guitar Wolf came out on stage in a Godzilla mask and immediately wrapped both hands around my neck in a mock choking, I knew this wasn’t going to be your typical wild punk show.

Guitar Wolf played the 5th of July to a rowdy crowd at the Moon Room inside the Summit Music Hall. Japan’s greatest “Jet” rock band took the stage wearing dinosaur masks, as they are on the “T-Rex From A Tiny Space Yojouhan” tour. Frontman Seiji immediately chugged a PBR through the mask (hard to say how much actually went into his mouth) as the crowd went wild. They played a set filled with upbeat, fast tempo punk songs as the audience danced and moshed. Guitar Wolf engages the crowd in countless ways including pulling an unsuspecting audience member named Bill onstage to play guitar in the place of Seiji, while he crowd surfed. The Guitar Wolf set ended with an entire band and audience drenched in sweat, everyone having the time of their life.

Guitar Wolf plays the Moon Room Denver, 7/5/17. Photo by Michael McGrath, denverthread.com

Before Guitar Wolf blew the audience away with their chaotic punk set, a polarly different band took the stage. Four piece band Isaac Rother & the Phantoms have the look of the Munster Family, but play a balanced mix of psychobilly, blues and surf- kind of like if the Cramps had a baby with Dr. John. The Phantoms setlist featured lots of old-school horror themed songs, complemented by the mystical, spooky and surfy dance moves of back up singer Tatiana Sandate. Isaac Rother & the Phantoms are one of the most perfectly danceable bands I have ever seen live, and served as a great juxtaposition to the blast of punk noise that followed in Guitar Wolf’s set.

But before either touring bands hit the stage, locals Poison Rites warmed the Moon Room with big sound and enthusiasm]. “Were from down the street”, explained frontman Reed Wolf , ahead of a set of heavy punk songs and hype for the Guitar Wolf set that would follow. The band played a quick but impressive set, and even shared stories about all the work they did to get on the bill for that show. Overall, Guitar Wolf at the Moon Room was a high energy show, filled with jarring and joyous surprises.


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Le Butcherettes light up Fillmore ahead of At the Drive-In

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Photos by Michael McGrath, Story by Amy McGrath

I’m supposed to write a review of last week’s At The Drive-In show at the Fillmore, but I’m not going to do that, because, Le Butcherettes.

Because the raw, dramatic power of Le Butcherettes woke me up like a sparkplug to the brain. Because the minute that Teri Gender Bender, daughter of Denver and Mexico, hit the stage- I was entirely transfixed by the howling, growling and hair flinging. Because Le Butcherettes channel a raw rock and roll rage a la Iggy and the Stooges- tinged with the feminist art edginess of warrior women like Yoko Ono, PJ Harvey, and Nina Hagen. 

Le Butcherettes opens for At the Drive-In, the Fillmore, Denver, 6/15/17. Photo by Michael McGrath, denverthread.com

Le Butcherettes surprised me and made me pay attention. Musically- Gender Bender, on vocals, guitars and keys, and her bandmates, drummer Alejandra Robles Luna and bassist Riko Rodríguez-López- venture across a wide and challenging territory ranging from punk to pop, with a dash of indie/art rock sensibility.

As her chosen name suggests, Teri Gender Bender is actively challenging norms: her performance is suffused with both a howling feminist power and a frank, in-your-face sexiness. She tears away her military jumpsuit to reveal a clingy red dress and heels. She dares you to find her sexy and then tears at her hair and red-streaked face, howling like a banshee.

Le Butcherettes’ brief, challenging, and intense opening set was a revelation to me- and a fascinating feminist counterpoint to the hyper-masculine, slightly unhinged, aggressively physical post-hardcore roar of At the Drive-In. Can’t wait to see Le Butcherettes back in Denver, owning their own stage.


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Brian Setzer keeps his Rockabilly cool at Arvada Center

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Photo by Michael McGrath, story by Amy McGrath

To listen to “Stray Cat Strut” is to climb into a personal time machine. There I am, an early 1980’s middle school version of myself, laying on my bed, chewing gum and gazing at a centerfold poster ripped from the pages of Tiger Beat magazine. The cuffed t-shirt, the tattoos, the sneer, that perfect pompadour…. Brian Setzer was my first in a long line of bad boy crushes. It was an enduring pubescent fantasy of mine that Brian would roll up to the front of my middle school, Triumph engine roaring, sweep me onto the back of his bike and rescue me from the many indignities and down-right uncoolness of middle school.

Here I am, the arguably wiser middle-aged mom version of myself, enjoying a lovely early summer evening in Arvada, gazing again at this more refined, and yes- older version of the very same man. Brian has transitioned nicely from bad boy heart-throb to elegant statesman of rockabilly. At the core of this transition, as much as his enduring cool, is his undeniable showmanship and hard-won guitar prowess.

Brian Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot rolled into the Arvada Center Monday with all the trimmings: classic guitars and warm sounding vintage amps, archetypal tattoo imagery, well-coiffed women in their best pin-up finery. The show marked a down-sized but cranked-up return to rockabilly for Setzer, whose career over the last few decades has been connected with a swing/big-band revival in front of the The Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Setzer’s set featured both the greatest hits of the Stray Cats along with a smattering of other rockabilly standards. Fan favorites “Rumble in Brighton” and “Rock this Town” had the Arvada Center crowd on its feet singing every word. Setzer’s capable backing band also shined during more subtle moments, like the gorgeous instrumental “Blue Moon” interlude, showcasing his outstanding, Les Paul-influenced guitar work.

Setzer’s 40+ years in the music business is a testament to the his ability to successfully navigate the transition from teen idol to rock icon. And even though his tattoos were hidden under a tailored pin-striped suit, and his punk rock sneer has faded into a more savvy showmanship, “Stray Cat Strut” still gave me the same flutters in my belly that I first experienced as a rebel boy obsessed pre-teen.

Editor’s note: Michael took lots of great photos of Brian Setzer at the Arvada Center. The one you see here was the only one approved for publication by his management. We’re not sure why…. we thought he looked great!!


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Beer beats weed at Denver’s Project Pabst

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Photos by Michael McGrath, story by Amy McGrath

What happens when a big music festival is sponsored by a major beer manufacturer in a city that’s become one of the international hubs of legal marijuana? In the case of Denver’s Project Pabst, beer culture wins.

The security screening for this festival was the most stringent of any in recent memory. If security is on the hunt for guns and weapons to protect festival-goers, that’s certainly appreciated. But I stood near the entrance on Saturday and watched countless patrons be turned back at the gates for having marijuana in their bags. Later, during Twin Peaks stoney and super-fun set, the band encouraged the audience to light up in their honor…. but few seemed to have weed to light, and if they did light up, security pounced quickly, even deep into the crowd. At least when Project Pabst is in town, it appears that beer culture still beats weed culture.

Ice Cube plays at Project Pabst Denver, 2017. Photo by Michael McGrath, denverthread.com.

Project Pabst brought a strong lineup to its Larimer Street/RiNo street party for the second year in a row, including festival headliner Ice-Cube. Twin Peaks, Phantogram, Danny Brown and Kurt Vile all contributed strong sets to the diverse lineup. We were looking forward to catching a mid-afternoon main stage set from Chicago hip-hop poet No Name but were disappointed to find out she had pulled out of the lineup shortly before the festival, replaced by Denver math-rock outfit Montoneros.

Though the main stage lineup was strong (especially Vile’s dreamy sunset vibes), our favorite sets of the day were found in more intimate environs, on the lovely, sun and art drenched Meadowlark patio, and inside the dark, beer drenched Larimer Lounge. Young Denver trumpet/funk master Wesley Watkins led his project Other Black through a beaming, effervescent set of funked up soul to a joyous crowd at the mid-afternoon Meadowlark.

Kurt Ottaway, longtime powerhouse on the Denver music scene (Overcasters, Tarmints, Twice Wilted) prowled the tiny Larimer Lounge stage out front the excellent Emerald Siam in their pumped-up set of darkly sonic pysch-rock. And providing an interesting sonic counterpoint to the Ice Cube mainstage festival set happening just outside, Denver’s Flaural lit up the Larimer with their substantial but sunny psychedelia.

Other Black plays at Project Pabst Denver, 2017. Photo by Michael McGrath, denverthread.com.

The diverse lineup and inside/outside offerings meant even older Denver music fans, aghast at how the once gritty side of Larimer street has become a highly decorated, homogenous hipster playground, could find something to love at Denver’s Project Pabst- even if they still couldn’t find the weed.

Emerald Siam plays at Project Pabst Denver, 2017. Photo by Michael McGrath, denverthread.com.


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Son Volt Relevant and Real at Gothic Theatre

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Story by Amy McGrath, Photos by Michael McGrath

“You’re with me now, will be again…” Drown, Jay Farrar, Son Volt

The music of Son Volt serves as a significant musical place-holder in my memory. Rising from the ashes of early 90’s college radio gods Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt’s first album, 1995’s Trace, was one of the first really important albums of my adulthood. I was newly graduated from college, negotiating the “real world” of career, credit cards, and post collegiate relationships. Trace was brand new but also perfectly embodied the musical influences of my childhood- Willie Nelson, Guy Clark, Bob Dylan- and the album was a deep source of comfort, a security blanket for me in an uncertain time.

Fast forward twenty-two years to spring 2017. I have learned there is no “certain” time. I am constantly negotiating and re-negotiating my relationship to the “real world” and searching to find some meaning in this experience we call adulthood. Jay Farrar and Son Volt continue to make relevant, roots-bound rock music that illustrates the stark realities of “Trump’s America”- economic depression, environmental degradation and general hopelessness. Musically, it’s rootsy, country blues/rock remains grounded in familiarity, but lyrically, the work feels especially relevant in its themes of life struggle and the quest for redemption.

Son Volt plays The Gothic Theatre, May 12, 2017. Photo by Michael McGrath for denverthread.com

Friday night at the Gothic Theatre, Son Volt sounded both comforting and fresh as they rolled out the electric blues of their latest release, Notes of Blue. The album is cranked up a notch from Son Volt’s more mellow recent releases, and the energy of the Friday night show followed suit. Opening with the rocker “Lost Souls,” Farrar’s signature nasal cry was well mated to the noisy guitar rock strongly reminiscent of his Uncle Tupelo origins.

Son Volt’s set offered up lots of strong work from their new album, especially the driving, voodoo grit of “Midnight.” But Farrar and company also offered up plenty for those who have been following them from the beginning by featuring several of the standout tracks from the debut album Trace. The mournful slide guitar whine of “Ten Second News” is Son Volt at its sad and beautiful best.

Keeping it balanced in the encore, the band offered  “Windfall,” likely the happiest ever Son Volt tune and contender for best road trip song of all time, and left the entire Gothic crowd in full sing along mode: “Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel, May the wind take your troubles away.” In a final blast of indie rock joy, the band returned for a 2nd encore with a spirited cover of the Velvet Underground classic “What Goes On.” Thanks, Son Volt- for something so direct and real. You’re with me now, and will be again.


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Photo: Isobel Thieme/DenverThread

Substance Flows from Peter Hook and The Light

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Photos by Isobel Thieme/DenverThread

The Summit Music Hall was filled with history last Saturday night, as Peter Hook and the Light played both the New Order and Joy Division Substance albums in their entirety. Hook played his signature, unforgettable bass constructions alongside his son Jack Bates, who also played bass throughout the show, and keyboardist Andy Poole, drummer Paul Kehoe, and guitarist David Potts. The band did a masterful job replicating both New Order and Joy Division for nearly three hours, only stopping for a short break between the two records.

They started the first set with a few bonus cuts–“Dreams Never End,” “Procession,” and “Cries and Whispers”–before starting on the New Order album in order. The older songs stood out clearly from most of the rest of the New Order portion, which came from the band’s more accessible, dance-hit remix period. This part included highlights like the ubiquitous ‘80s hit “Blue Monday,” “Confusion,” “State of the Nation,” “Bizarre Love Triangle,” and the rest. While the band performed all the songs remaining true to their roots – Hooky’s bass was a bit overpowering at times – after five or six dancefloor legends they began to get somewhat tiresome. The crowd loved it early on but seemed to settle towards the latter half.

Hook didn’t address the audience much, although he did dedicate their version of “The Perfect Kiss” to the recently passed director Jonathan Demme, and later stopped the band to admonish some sort of skirmishing fans near the front. Otherwise, he was Hooky the smug professional for the entire set.

After a brief intermission -no doubt allowing the band to load up on oxygen – they came back out and played Joy Division’s version of Substance – and they looked as if they’d just begun, rather than having already played a full 90-minute set. And the audience was re-energized right along with them, screaming out lyric after lyric to nearly every song, pogoing, or simply swaying in old-school shoegaze form. Hearing such influential and brilliant classics like “No Love Lost,” “Warsaw,” “These Days,” and “Leaders of Men” performed live was a hugely satisfying experience. Hook did a good job of approximating Ian Curtis’s signature vocal style while keeping his own affect pretty evident.

It was the last half of the Joy Division set that brought the place down when the band launched into songs like “Transmission,” “She’s Lost Control,” “Dead Souls,” and “Atmosphere.” Even after nearly three hours of playing, the band never looked or sounded worn down, and did justice to the original post-punk anthems. And then, of course, came time to play the ubiquitous (but still emotionally jarring and brilliant) “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” As you’d expect, nearly the entire audience sang every word along with the band, which stopped playing at one point to showcase the howling that absolutely filled the venue.

While Peter Hook remains in litigation with the other member of New Order–something he often comments is truly heartbreaking–his tours have re-introduced these important albums to so many, and in many cases have introduced them for the first time, with great respect. The records’ longevity is absolutely evident, and the insight and ingenuity of the lyrics and music are, maybe, more relevant now than when Curtis was alive.


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A Garden of Surprising Delights at the Marquis Theater

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Photos by Sandisz Thieme, Story by Molly McGrath

Something about the energy of the Garden as they played the Marquis last Tuesday was shocking and innovative, chaos in its best form. The Marquis lineup was one of the strangest, most innovative lineups I’ve ever seen; The Garden, Fat Tony and Loretta Kill all highlighted each other in a strange, puzzle-esque way.

The Garden, two androgynous model twin brothers (Fletcher and Wyatt Shears) from Orange County, California are the founders of what they call the “Vada Vada,”  genre (as well as a state of being) the defies all set binaries and puts a twist on traditional punk and electronica. Over the years, their music has transformed from minute long punk ballads about simple and everyday things, to complex beat driven songs following narratives of their life in “the Vadaverse.”

The Garden opened the show with the title track of their new album “U Want The Scoop?” and as soon as the band began to play, the audience began dancing, moshing, and singing along. From somersaults to strange hand gestures, the comical side of the Garden’s music is brought to life on stage, including their personal interactions with the audience- shaking the hands of every person in the front row and allowing audience members to sing the catchy choruses into the microphone.

The Garden’s performance however, greatly contrasted that of Fat Tony’s. Although high levels of energy remained throughout the night, Fat Tony brought a very different vibe to the room. The Nigerian-American rapper from Houston had many members of the audience dancing as he sung, rapped, and occasionally screamed the lyrics to his songs.

But even before Fat Tony took the stage with his  R&B influenced hip-hop vibes, locals Loretta Kill took the stage. Their music, loud, punky and danceable, had the members of the teenage audience bobbing their head along. Some members of the audience, like myself, danced vigorously through their full set. Eli Lancaster of Loretta Kill described the night as the strangest lineup he has ever seen, yet the most fun he’s ever had playing a show, and I totally agree with him.


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With a New Record, Japandroids Brings their Ecstatic Rock to The Gothic March 7th

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If you’re familiar with Japandroids, you don’t need any encouragement to get to the Gothic Theatre next Tuesday night to catch their infectious, ecstatic music. You already know that this duo sounds like an orchestra, exploding from speakers & stage with huge drum and guitar sounds, channeling as much Bruce Springsteen at his prime as The Alarm, The Gun Club, and epic obscurities like Squirrel Bait.

So much more than your typical garage-rock duo, guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse wield an anthemic onslaught that could fill stadiums, let alone smaller venues like The Gothic, and they pack each one with an abandon that explodes with passion like no other offering in Rock. Since they busted out of Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2006, the duo have developed an inimitable style, sharing passionately howling vocals, singing about the ecstasy of youth, partying, happiness, and the full-on beauty of life. Unbound, each song raises your blood pressure and optimism at the same time, while forcing you to thrust a fist in the air in triumph – regardless of the day you’re having.

Their latest release, Near to the Wild Heart of Life, dropped in late January, and is destined only to add more to their prowess – and their live performance promises to be unforgettable. Don’t miss their show at The Gothic on Tuesday, March 7 – doors at 8:00 p.m., show begins at 9:00 with openers Craig Finn and the Uptown Controllers (a spinoff of Finn’s The Hold Steady–also a great bet). In the meantime, check out the title track from Japandroids’ latest, below.


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Mykki Blanco & Cakes da Killa at Lost Lake

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Photos: Sandisz Thieme, Sanjana Stein

While Lost Lake has seen its share of excellent rock, rap, soul, and other acts, I kinda doubt the still-fresh venue has seen anything quite like the recent Stunt Queen Tour, featuring Mykki Blanco and Cakes da Killa. In front of a packed 16+ house, Blanco filled the night with her own brand of hardcore-styled, fluid-gender rap/performance art, after Cakes da Killa kept the crowd warmed up and hyped.

Blanco played a set a little heavy with material from her latest, “Mykki,” but didn’t fail to play earlier material from “Gay Dog Food” as well. The all-ages crowd ate it all up, constantly and sweatily pogo-ing, jerking, and slamming in front of the low stage, while Blanco furiously spat out tomes about our fucked-up world in punk influenced raps. At one point she belted out some acapella musings that almost sounded more like poetry slam than rap.

The audience was there for two reasons: the music and Blanco’s strong, beautiful personality – and they got what they came for. She ensured the younger crowd that they were in for it because it’s not every day that they’d get to see art explode into life like this, right in front of them. Too often lumped into the  NYC gay rap “bucket,” Blanco actually has more in common with Andy Warhol’s Factory and the Riot Grrrl movements, and she excels at standing out. Not just because she’s often in drag – she wore an impressive long black wig for most of the performance, and a leopard-skin-textured mini skirt as well – but because her attitude is constantly in-your-face, aggressive, provocative, and extremely intelligent.

Unwilling to be confined to the small, constantly red-it stage, Blanco migrated at one point through the crowd to take a spot on top of the bar on the other side of the lounge, drawing half the crowd into the much smaller room along with her. The fact that most of the crowd was under 21 was a sign, too – music has no age limit or preference, and Blanco is fully on board with all-ages shows. Two visits ago, in fact, Blanco played at Rhinoceropolis – the legendary all-ages DIY venue – and loved it.


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Everybody Can Pussy Riot

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A night with Maria Alyokhina and Alexandra Bogino of Pussy Riot

By Isobel Thieme

“Don’t you know that a wall has two sides and nobody is free?” – Pussy Riot in their EP xxx

Members of Pussy Riot spoke on a panel at the Oriental Theater, moderated by local journalists Bree Davies and Ru Johnson.

Pussy is a word I’ve seen and heard quite a lot lately, how it is “grabbed” and how it “grabs back,” for example. And now, Pussy Riots.

While I walked around the block-long line of people on Tennyson on my way into the Pussy Riot panel held at the Oriental Theater recently, I was happy to see so many women lining up – I don’t know about you, but I could use some girl power these days.

Truly, they could not have come to the US at a better time.

The inside of The Oriental seemed to ring with a certain sense of desperation–but not the kind we feel when we’re simply waiting in the crowd for the lights to dim, the band to come on stage, and the music to start. It was heavier, characterized by a need, a cry for help. The last few weeks in the US have opened up the floodgates for so many questions and uncertainties about our country’s government–in my case, anyway–and here we were presented with the chance to hear from two women who have helped to start a vital conversation around the government in their own country of Russia. Truly, they could not have come to the US at a better time. What could we learn from these women who have dedicated their lives to activism? To changing an outdated patriarchal, corrupt system – through music, nonetheless? I, and I think many others, took Masha and Sasha’s visit as an opportunity to listen and learn how best to move forward in our own situation.

Feminist Punk Rock Protest – and more

Photo: Mike McGrath (mcgphotos.com)

The female warriors who are Pussy Riot are often armed with bright neon dresses, tights, and balaclavas, their loud musical instruments, and their refusal to be quiet. Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk rock protest group based in Moscow, known for their intentionally disruptive performances in public spaces. Specifically, they broke through US media for their performance at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, for which two original members were arrested for “hooliganism” and imprisoned for two years afterward.

In every way, Pussy Riot demands to be recognized.

As a band, Pussy Riot is inspired by other punk, thought-provoking, music makers, like Angelic Upstarts and Bikini Kill. But, in truth, there is no band out there quite like Pussy Riot. Their creation stems from an oppressive and patriarchal dictatorship which violently condemns any form of political resistance. Sasha told us that those who live in Russia can easily be put into prison for political opinions they might post on Facebook (imagine how many more new babies, kittens, and reports of bagel-eating we would see if that was the case in the US).

As we know, social media is an incredible platform for activism and social justice, albeit an easy, incomplete platform – as one can be an ‘activist’ anywhere from an airplane to their own toilet. But Pussy Riot saw the dormancy of social media for social justice. Beyond that, Sasha talked to us about the fact that the authorities in Russia don’t see sanctioned rallies as a threat to their power, so they simply ignore them. Any voices that come out of those kinds of rallies or protests go more or less unheard by the government. So, the rallies and performances which are not sanctioned are an essential piece to the Pussy Riot movement.

They’re disruptive, unsolicited, and absolutely demand attention

Photo: Mike McGrath (mcgphotos.com)

Pussy Riot knows how to be heard by the audiences they are targeting, simply because they don’t have any other choice but to be loud. The kind of performance art they participate in is intrinsically disruptive, it’s unsolicited, and it absolutely demands attention. Not only that, but it’s provocative. The name of their movement was inspired by wanting to make those who heard, spoke, or wrote about them feel uncomfortable, just by having to use the word “pussy.” These warriors are fearless – they are constantly pushing beyond the boundaries which are built around them with feminism, activism, and progression in mind.

It was amazing to hear these women talk about how they have actively participated in developing a cultural shift in their country that could allow for sexual equality, the proper treatment of LGBTQ+ people and women in Russia, how they have redefined protest for themselves, how they have learned about the power of community. Pussy Riot is a special example of not just talking the talk but walking the walk. They don’t simply talk or argue about the ways in which they are oppressed by their culture and government, but they are actually doing something about it. Something real and something tangible.

“Every person has a choice, every choice is important, and if you choose to stay aside, you’re giving away an opportunity for action. So ACT.” – Maria Alyokhina

It’s easy to sit aside and watch, to scroll, like, comment, share, and retweet in this electronic bubble we’ve blown for ourselves, that is a given (like I said, you can be an activist from the comfort of your own toilet), but what choice are we really making when we do only that? Masha and Sasha both encourage the use of protest and street riots because “you see the eyes of people who are with you,” which can only work to fuel the fires of progression when and where we feel it is needed.

Truly, We all should Pussy Riot

As a young woman, it felt inspiring and rejuvenating for me to watch the way these women have taken control of their country’s situation in their own way—how they have harnessed the power inside themselves and from their community to call for change. Masha and Sasha’s story–and their presence–offered us incredible advice while we take our turn to call for our own change. We ought to refuse to be quiet about the things we believe in, we all ought to Pussy Riot.


Editor’s Note: While the reporting, photography, and writing for this report was done in a timely manner, Editorial staff experienced a set of circumstances that made production and publication impossible until now. The story and the event, however, as well as the prescient and vital opinions and observations of our author are no less valid and important today as they were when they were first produced–in fact, they may be more so, and becoming more and more relevant and true every day. DenverThread apologizes for the timing of publication. Check out another review of this important event.


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Aldous Harding – from New Zealand – Righteously Steals The Gothic

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On first listen, alt-folk whirlwind Aldous Harding‘s style seems run-of-the-mill, in the style of Sandy Denny, Joan Baez, or Joanna Newsome, or pastoral Nick Drake, with lilting vocals, strumming acoustic, and little else but an occasional bowing saw, or flute. Witnessed in person, the music becomes sinister–yet inviting, hauntingly painful, and smoldering.

Recently introduced to the wide world from New Zealand, the diminutive Harding sang with the lilt of a giant – or a squadron of them – at The Gothic Theatre last Tuesday night. Filling one of two warm-up slots for Atlanta indie perennials Deerhunter, she and her accompanying pianist (and life partner) Marlon Williams  promptly stole any extra energy from the venue before the Deerhunter even began a final soundcheck.

First Intro to US Audiences

The Harding the US is seeing onstage for the first time this year is anything but pedestrian, and even calling her music alt-folk is an undersell. Musically, her folk approaches centuries-old parochial ballads that might be heard at today Scottish festivals, or in between bloody Game of Thrones vignettes. But they come from an even more sinister, deeply dramatic origin – one that feels proto-gothic. Harding’s stage presence enhances the terror, the passion, the psychosis that one might imagine could be behind such perfect gems – especially if that listener were raised on slasher movies, true crime novels and serial killer bios.

At her most tame, Harding held the intensity of PJ Harvey onstage – minimalist, yet explosive – but these were only a few seconds at a time. Most of the time, she glared at the audience – or some threatening alter-audience only she saw beneath the glare of the stage lights – with facial gesticulations that ranged from mild distaste to abject pain. She would traverse emotions from frustrated boredom to legitimate disdain, and then to outright disgust, seemingly from a terrified, abused foundation. The glares contrasted beautifully with her voice – at once sultry and smokey, and wholesome and throaty, in the style of Victoria LeGrande, or Nico.

Circulating beneath that warbling croon was a constant nervousness, a level of fear that seemed to make Harding mouth disparate consonants and vowels with the same vitriol and discomfort as she revealed difficult feelings and experiences, or nightmares. Her irascible stare, wide mouth, and huge expressive eyes also recalled a young Patti Smith, albeit on an interesting mixture of barbiturates and speed.

A Masterpiece Cover of “Crying”

The duo’s second-to-last song was a cover of Roy Orbison‘s legendary “Crying,” and no better-fitting juxtapositional anthem could ever have been picked. This staged version encompassed and magnified every ounce of Rebekah Del Rio‘s nightmarish version–“Llorando”–from the Hispanic theater in David Lynch‘s “Mulholland Drive.” Dripping with every level of psychotic longing, every ounce of abject fear of total loss of control that Del Rio imbued into the masterpiece, Harding’s version also embraced all of the overdriven, suicidal heartbreak implicit in Orbison’s masterpiece. Harding belted out the tearful lament in a huge, infinitely ominous way that belied her slight frame, and absolutely killed the audience.

She finished with “Horizon,” a beautiful, anthemic curse of a song. Harding’s best of the night enveloped the existential anathema of choice at the millisecond one alights on a razor’s edge between existence and oblivion. The angst was anchored by nothing more than Harding’s intense poetry and some fist-heavy chords on the keyboard. As she literally served the audience with the choice between our princess and our horizon, there was almost a sense that she felt the need to check her hands, to make sure the warm, sticky blood of choice had really fallen off. This is how real the angst and joy in Harding’s music is, and  – if “Horizon” is any indication – it’s an intensity that will be enjoyed, influential, and resonating for a while. It’s just starting now.

Consider yourself lucky to have witnessed it, if you have, or make every attempt to get in front of Harding. It’s just starting now.