Category Archives: NewsThreads

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Marty Stuart Shines at Oriental Theater

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Photos by Michael McGrath

Five time Grammy winner Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives dazzled the packed house at the Oriental Theater on Saturday, May 13th.


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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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Bob Mould Lights Up the Oriental Theater

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Photos by Michael McGrath, Story by Billy Thieme

After decades of almost no stage banter or commentary, Bob Mould had some things to say to a near-packed house at the Oriental last Saturday night, both in and in-between songs. The ‘80s/’90s influential punk rocker cut a slim, professional figure, alone on that large stage save for his guitar, amp stacks, and a mic stand, as he belted out a litany of songs from his history – more Hüsker Dü songs than I expected (a great thing), plenty of Sugar pieces, and many from his solo records.

Mould has always made an unforgettable – and unmistakable – use of his unique voice, nasal and powerful, threading often indiscernible lyrics through impossibly fast and razor-sharp power chords, and Saturday’s show was no different. Starting the show with “Hoover Dam,” “Your Favorite Thing,” and a searing “I Apologize,” he quickly riled up an already excited audience. Despite the rows of chairs set up in the pit area, most down at the stage chose to stand once the tunes kicked off – understandably.

The rocking continued through “See A Little Light,” “The End of Things,” “You Say You,” and a few others, as Mould thrashed his Fender, stalking from one side of the stage to the other, clearly in a music-borne ecstasy. He slowed things down a bit with “Lonely Afternoon” and “Sinners and Their Repentances,” from Workbook – one of his earlier solo records – almost crooning over the complex chord progressions.

He closed out the set after nearly 90 minutes with a set of Sugar and Hüsker Dü favorites: “If I Can’t Change Your Mind,” the beautifully maudlin “Hardly Getting Over It,” “Flip Your Wig,” and the masterpiece, “Celebrated Summer.” By this time the majority of the audience were on their feet, screaming for more. And Bob delivered with a three-song encore including “In A Free Land,” “Daddy’s Favorite,” and “Black Confetti.”

Saturday night’s show was the first of a solo US tour for Mould that wraps up at the end of April. Judging by that performance, each show will be an unforgettable experience.

Denver trio Andy Thomas’ Dust Heart opened the show with a set of moving, dark country gothic that recalled local ghoul Munley. Thomas played acoustic guitar alongside fellow member of The Knew, Tyler Breuer, on steel guitar and Jen GaNun on harpsichord. His guttural yet smooth voice let out ballads about heartbreak, landscapes,  devils, and lovers, well-matched by the folky constructions.


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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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Tinariwen Come in From the Desert to Play The Oriental Theater

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Photos by Michael McGrath

Taureg guitar band Tinariwen delighted a near-packed Oriental Theater with their unique blend of blues, psychedelic guitars, and rhythms often reminiscent of a slow, majestic plodding across hot dunes, camels in tow as night falls. The band was promoting its eighth international release, Elwan (Elephants), the latest product of 20 years of global popularity. Touring the US, Tinariwen were far from their remarkably dangerous home in northern Mali – and the music on the new album reflects that harsh environment. They usually sang in their native language – so I’m hard-pressed to identify any songs – but they were all beautifully sad, or jubilant, or sweepingly poetic, and all were drenched in a beautiful combination of Middle Eastern folk and (I swear) Grateful Dead-influenced guitar meandering.

Dressed in traditional desert clothing – beautifully ornate and covering nearly 100% of their bodies, the band members made me feel stuffy and hot – but they played on brilliantly for more than an hour, as the semi-packed pit danced and clapped in rhythm. These nomads definitely have established their American fanbase, and they’re passionately committed to the band, as much as the band is committed to them – which was obvious throughout the night.

Dengue Fever opened the evening with their unique blend of Cambodian rock, surf, Afro grooves, and psychedelic jazz, bringing the level of the theater up in short order.

 

 


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Foxygen breathes new air into Gothic Theatre

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Photos by Michael McGrath

Foxygen brought its big, high-energy show to the Gothic Theatre on Tuesday in support of their 2017 release, Hang. 


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The Orwells provide relief and release at The Gothic Theatre

photos by Michael McGrath, words by Amy McGrath

It’s hard to frame any of my current musical experiences outside of the madness that’s happening daily in our country. The Orwells show at the Gothic Theatre on March 22nd was no exception, and I landed at the show feeling irritated by the day’s terrible news, and very much in need of having my face rocked off.

Out of the gates, it didn’t look too promising- the band seemed grumpy too, and the new material from this year’s release, Terrible Human Beings, just didn’t connect at the top of the set. Fortunately, The Orwells singer Mario Cuomo is relentlessly compelling- he appeared onstage in a dapper white linen suit and tuxedo shirt- a deranged Jay Gatsby figure, countenance and conduct vacillating between cherub and demon.

It was the mid-set explosion of “Who Needs You,” one of the stand-out tracks from 2014’s Disgraceland, that really lit the crowd. “You better burn that flag, cuz it ain’t against the law!” howled Cuomo, and the mosh pit responded by unleashing an all-out, cathartic, Trump-era rage release. From that point on, the band and crowd were dialed in, and the Orwells rocked the Gothic in the brash, bratty fashion they’ve become known for. In the end, for one more night, rock and roll eclipsed despair, at least momentarily.

 


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Peace, love and psych rock rule at Santa Barbara’s Starry Nites Festival

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Photos by Michael McGrath, Story by Amy McGrath

On St. Patrick’s Day, Michael and I ate a late afternoon seafood lunch by the foggy, gray Malibu seaside, the heaviness of work, parenting and “grown-up life” falling away moment by moment as we laughed and drank mid-afternoon fruity martinis. We meandered the empty beach across from the restaurant and reminisced about a long ago Irish honeymoon. Then we headed for the hills above Santa Barbara to spend a few days under the old oak trees, seeing some amazing live music at the Starry Nites Festival.

“What’s the secret to staying married?” I’m often asked. “Forgive liberally and have as much fun together as you possibly can,” tends to be my standard answer. What this has looked like in my life, married to a rock and roll photographer, has been spending lots of time seeing live music; fortunately, we share similar tastes and a mutual passion for going to shows. At some point early on, we started the tradition of traveling around the country to check out shows and festivals- sometimes with our kids, who, fortunately, are also music-obsessed, and sometimes just the two of us.

I know that trudging off to multi-day music festivals in a variety of locations isn’t everyone’s idea of a deeply romantic getaway, but it works for us- which is why we were especially excited to find out about a festival upstart this year, The Starry Nites Festival- in a beautiful but easy place to get to- the San Ynez mountains above Santa Barbara- happening right around our 18th wedding anniversary. For a romantic weekend getaway in a dreamy, beautiful place with a killer line-up of psych and indie rock bands, Starry Nites delivered in a big way.

Howie Anderson of The Strawberry Alarm Clock performs at the inaugural Starry Nites Music Festival on March 18th & 19th 2017 in Santa Barbara CA.

We arrived at the gorgeous festival site, The Live Oak Campground, and immediately met guitar player Howie Anderson of the classic psych-pop band The Strawberry Alarm Clock, waiting online to check in. This is the magic of a festival like this- a mélange of fans and musicians all hanging out in a relaxed, gorgeous environment- everyone excited to see their own favorite bands and the ones they haven’t discovered yet.

The festival’s three stages featured a nicely curated collection of both new and established acts ranging from garage rock to glam, with a healthy dose of psychedelia thrown into the mix. Asheville North Carolina’s lo-fi darlings Elvis Depressedly delivered a sweet, sunshine drenched set of late afternoon sadness. Starry Nites offered plenty of interesting new music: LA’s Band Aparte gave a high energy shot in the arm to the sleepy afternoon with their gothy, dark wave sound. Husband/wife duo KOLARS featured the most interesting percussion of the festival- drummer Lauren Brown pounding out fierce rhythms, tap dancing a-top a bass drum for the entirety of the rocking, glam/blues set.

Kolars perform at the inaugural Starry Nites Music Festival on March 18th & 19th 2017 in Santa Barbara CA.

 

Along with highlighting new artists, the festival booked a variety of classic acts. The Strawberry Alarm Clock, featuring our smiley new friend Howie, put in a solid set of classic psychedelic pop music featuring their 1967 smash hit “Incense and Peppermints.”  The Dandy Warhols have been churning out cheerful psych-pop for over 20 years, and their set at Starry Nites was a focused, driving 90 minutes of garage rock fun. Saturday evening’s headliners The Kills drew the biggest crowd of the festival and their performance was a high-energy romp through the sexy, slithery glam that duo Allison Mossheart and Jamie Hince have become known for.

The Kills perform at the inaugural Starry Nites Music Festival on March 18th & 19th 2017 in Santa Barbara CA.

In addition to a great lineup, the festival featured some truly inspired flourishes- especially the  projections of psychedelic images onto the large oak trees of grounds that turned the whole place into a trippy playground after dark. There was good food, great drinks (alcoholic kombucha!) and a solid selection of vendors. What there wasn’t- a huge crowd- made the festival feel intimate and relaxed. Hopefully there were enough ticket sales to warrant bringing Starry Nites back next year, but the carefree atmosphere of this year’s festival was a special treat for music-lovers accustomed to the big crowds of festivals like Austin Psych Fest and NOLA Jazzfest.

Sunday’s line-up featured exceptional sets from Black Mountain– whose wave of sound evokes lots of early heavy metal/psych rock influences like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and features the unassuming stage presence but ferociously compelling vocals of Amber Webber. Scottish Teenage Fanclub, a staple of early 90’s alt-rock, contributed a set of super bouncy, fun jangle pop including their memorable single “The Concept.”

Alan Parsons performs at the inaugural Starry Nites Music Festival on March 18th & 19th 2017 in Santa Barbara CA.

Though Santa Barbara resident, prog-rock pioneer, and “Eye in the Sky” Alan Parsons closed the festival, for me, the true headliner of the night was the profoundly moving, laudanum-paced set from Cat Power. One woman powerhouse Chan Marshall has a disarming and unpredictable nature on stage- she seems to meander trying to find herself musically, and her songs often end abruptly. But once Chan sat at the piano and channeled her deeply sorrowful voice into Cat Power classics like “Names” and “He War,” a powerful, transformative hush fell over the crowd- and I fell down the rabbit hole of her mesmerizing voice and raw vulnerability. “The Moon” was so magical and deeply poignant that it left me floating through the rest of the evening.

Cat Power performs at the inaugural Starry Nites Music Festival on March 18th & 19th 2017 in Santa Barbara CA.

The light fog that kept the festival cool and dream-like intensified on Sunday night as we parted the festival grounds- grateful for and gratified by two days of excellent music in a gorgeous, relaxed place. We would love to see Starry Nites become an annual event. We plan to stay married for another year in hopes we can do it all again.


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Edison Plays Our Hearts Out at The Bluebird

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All Photos: Sandisz Thieme for DenverThread

Above all, it was Sara Slaton’s voice, softly, confidently thundering over Dustin Morris and Maxwell Hughes’ strings, sticks, horns, and skins that left an indelible mark on the Bluebird audience Sunday night.  It’s undoubtedly this layered canyon wall of sound that’s leaving that same mark on Denver’s continually exploding scene.

Particularly poignant was their version of “Open Road,” an upbeat, traveling tune that  Slaton called “… a love song for our van.” Maybe among the most of the folky tunes of the night. this one recalled a sort of Edward Sharpe vibe, just bigger and less hippy. When Edison broke out on the Denver scene, Slaton’s vocals and Morris’s multi-instrumentalism more than hinted at a huge thing – equally echoing the intimate bedroom of Bon Iver or Iron & Wine. The addition of Maxwell Hughes’ (formerly part of Denver’s Lumineers) strong symphonic skills and brilliant guitar work pushes Edison near the often heady and atmospheric realms of shoegaze, and grounds their folk sound with just a soupcon of The Head and the Heart as they easily – and masterfully – grasp a noisier Fleetwood Mac.

The highlight of their set was definitely the war cry “Civil War,” showing Slaton’s fierce passionate voice and the bombastic rhythms of her bandmates, attempting to grasp her from the maelstrom of a changing relationship, in the midst of a changing life. The audience screamed the chorus along with Slaton again, and again, and again – adding to the spiritual fracas.

While it’s certainly no surprise to see yet another strong trio come out of Denver’s collaborative scene, Edison promises to be one of the biggest in a little while, it seems. And with bands like Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats in that pedigree, that’s saying no small thing. Edison’s sound is huge, new, exciting – folky, yet concrete; whimsical, yet eons deep (mostly due to Slater’s haunting and full vocals). Ready to add another notch to Denver’s musical belt?


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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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Pussy Riot–A Wake Up Call for American Women

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By Molly McGrath

Let me start off by saying that American women just can’t relate to Pussy Riot.

Most American women have never served time in brutal Russian prisons or Serbian workcamps. Most American women don’t have to worry about the police coming into their house and quite literally stealing their belongings. Most American women are not being denied their rights by both the head of their country and the leader of their nation’s supposed religion.

What do we really know about Russian women?

I usually try not to jump to conclusions but would say that most of the women lined up to see original member Maria Alyokhina and more recent member (and journalist) Alexandra Bogino of the Russian punk rock protest group were not members of the Orthodox Church. Chances are, they were probably not even Russian. Ever since the cold war, Russia and America have been extremely disconnected. Before Pusssy Riot, American women were hardly aware of the situation for women in Russia. Knowing this is extremely important, because these activist women opened up a new window, allowing people all over the world to see what’s really happening to women in Russia.

My best friend, a 16-year-old daughter of a Russian Immigrant, has been raised in the Russian Orthodox Church, and we’ve discussed thoughts about Russian protest art several times. A huge fan of Pussy Riot, she says that the act is more influential in America than in Russia and that it actually created fear for many people in the Orthodox community. Russia has undergone two major revolutions in the last century (the Bolshevik Revolution at the beginning, and the falling of the Soviet Union towards the end) and the idea of another revolution is terrifying.

“Think about if you, a white woman, entered a Mosque and disrupted someone’s worship–that would make you a bad person,” she once said to me. Although that is true, I, as a white woman, am not forced into a Mosque the same way that Women in Russia are forced in the church. I am also not directly affected by the actions of Islam, whereas in Russia the leader of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, is petitioning to ban all forms of abortion throughout the entire country.

The 2016 American Election

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

In the provocative panel discussion, held at the Oriental Theater and moderated by Denver-based journalists Ru Johnson and Bree Davies, there was plenty of talk about the recent American election. Many American women are in fear after Donald Trump was elected, a man with bigoted ideals and allegations of sexual assault piling up in the double digits. One of the members of Pussy Riot even apologized for the results of our election. They also pointed out that the difference between Russia and America, however, is that Americans are still protected under the constitution and its checks and balances, a document which allows people to take serious political action, and cause serious political change. 

When asked for tips to deal with a bigot for a president, both women stated how important it is to exercise all of your constitutional rights. They added that if you are not exercising those rights–if you stay silent and sulk or don’t vote–you are ruining the country for the rest of the people who are ready to take action.

Pussy Riot held court and schooled us all

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

Pussy Riot has essentially shocked some American women into a deeper understanding of their own privilege–thankfully. After the show, I spoke panel moderator Bree Davies, and she told me that, as a journalist, her pay over the past several years had been cut nearly in half. She added that her struggle–as a woman in America working a job she loves for a low wage–is comparatively nothing when held next to the struggle of women in Russia. So many of them aren’t able to work jobs they love at all, and are often paid far less than their counterparts in America.

What all of the American women present that night (hopefully) learned is how important it is to take action when you have the ability. And how important it is to stand up for people who enjoy less rights than themselves. Hopefully they all learned how important it is that–across the globe–people continue to fight for their civil rights, no matter the costs.

If Pussy Riot members can serve in Serbian work camps as a sacrifice for the rights of women in Russia, what is stopping American women from rioting and creating political art hers, daily? There is a lot that American women can learn from Pussy Riot–the big thing is to take action.


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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