Category Archives: social change

Pussy Riot Rally Review

This is not a concert review.

Pussy Riot did not play a show at the Los Angeles club Echo Saturday night.

Pussy Riot are artivists who don’t believe in the commercial practice of concerts. As they say in a press release, “Events that we organize are political rallies, not concerts.”

Pussy Riot held a rally at the Echo Saturday. It cost $25 in advance to take part in this rally, $28 day of show rally. They also rallied Sunday night, and will do it one more time tonight.

I saw a really good rally at the Echo Saturday night.


Pussy Riot has changed a great deal since they first grabbed the world’s attention after they were arrested, prosecuted, and jailed for performing “A Punk Prayer” at Russia’s sacred Orthodox cathedral. The Pussy Riot that led Saturday’s rally was not an all-woman anarchist punk collective, but a coed techno/rap duo. The only recognizable member of Pussy Riot on stage at the Echo was Nadya Tolokonnikova, and by recognizable, I mean that even though her face was covered by a balaclava, everyone knew it was Nadya – she has the most famous musical lips since Mick Jagger. There was also a DJ/programmer, a man who goes by Chaika – every rally needs a DJ – and a woman who occasionally bounced around and shouted (every rally needs a gogo dancer/hype person too). It was unclear if we would have recognized these two even if their faces hadn’t been covered by cloth. “Anyone can be Pussy Riot,” Tolokonnikova said Saturday, a claim the group has always made. Still, it was a bit weird to see a guy on the mike. Aesthetically, Chaika seems like a good collaborator for Tolokonnikova. But is this what people want when they see Pussy Riot?

Tolokonnikova has become a skilled MC. Her word flows sound particularly mesmerizing with a Russian trill; she also raps in English, especially when it’s subject appropriate, as in the Trump takedown “Make America Great Again.” Chaika’s beats propelled the tracks into climactic explosions; the rally became a rave. Their songs remain provocations, with infectious agit-prop hooks: Nadya led the audience in chanting, “Pussy is the new dick!”

Pussy Riot are deft visual as well as musical propagandists. They performed rallied Saturday in front of stunning videos, including visuals by jailed Russian artist Oleg Navalny for “Election,” their timely commentary upon the recent “win” by Vladimir Putin.


Make no mistake, protest was the running theme of Saturday’s event, along with coalition building. Pussy Riot have invited community members to join them on all the stops of their current tour. Saturday, Fat Tony took the stage before Pussy Riot with a set that fused bass-heavy hip-hop with not one but two Ramones songs. In the music journalism biz, we used to call this “an opening act” – I’m not sure what the rally equivalent is. Pussy Riot seem to be particularly reaching out to black American artivists, a tactic that reminds me of the Clash.

I don’t really care if you call what I saw Saturday a rally or a concert, but then again, I got in free as press. It was cool to see Nadya hanging out in the audience of the tiny Echo and not acting like the kind of rock star she deserves to be; after all, how many other musicians have spent time in the gulag for their art? I’ve always said that the quality of Pussy Riot’s music tends to get eclipsed by the impact of their message, and I feel like that more than ever now. I’d pay money to see Tolokonnikova in concert, and she wouldn’t even have to call herself Pussy Riot.

 

 

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Filed under Recommended listening, social change

Yes She Can

Last night, at a point when we needed it most, America was blessed with one of the most detailed, compassionate, forward-looking, fierce, and presidential speeches I have ever seen a candidate give. And she wrapped it all up with a quote from Hamilton! Hillary Rodham Clinton provided an exuberant end to an intense and important convention. Afterwards, we went outside and the Northern sky was lit by aurora borealis. Stars streaked across the heavens for seconds at a time, leaving behind iridiscent exclamation marks. It was as if Mother Earth were celebrating this historic moment — or as if my own mother were letting us know she is still here. Hope lives. 

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Filed under Queens of Noise, social change, Uncategorized

Town Mouse and Country Mouse

Delta Millworks plank

Delta Millworks plank

The Dwell on Design show taking place at the Los Angeles Convention Center this weekend is like a porn extravaganza for design fetishists. Cypress burned and finished until it looks like alligator skin. Washers you can operate with your smart phone. Giant glamping tipis stocked with velvety bean-bag chairs. Bluetooth stereo systems that look like children’s building blocks. Outdoor kitchen setups — i.e. pumped-up bbqs —  that cost more than three-bedroom houses in my husband’s hometown. (Admittedly that’s not saying a whole lot.) Hundreds of vendors hawk cutting-edge household products, and the occasional jewelry and back rub — everything you want for your urban wet dream.

In the middle of the San Fernando Valley, there’s a place where you can glide in your kayak past blue and green herons between banks of lush vegetation — a mix of palms, deciduous trees, and bamboo. Water from the Sepulveda Basin gets recycled in this rare stretch of the Los Angeles River that has not been turned into a concrete trough. It’s a reminder of the natural beauty that was here before over-consuming dwellers put up a parking lot, in the words of Joni Mitchell. Sadly, you have to paddle past the occasional partially submerged shopping cart — how symbolic is that.IMG_6341

Yesterday I experienced two sides of LA, a city that prides itself on both its cosmopolitan pleasures and its natural beauty. As someone who has always prided herself on being both a town and a country mouse, I appreciated both experiences. But I have to say that despite the trend of makers going green, the forces of urbanization still have the upper hand in our city. Continue reading

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Filed under John Lautner, social change

The American Autumn

Ferguson. Ayotzinapa. Staten Island. UVA. Berkeley. Mexico City. Malcolm Gladwell might say we’ve reached a tipping point. I say we’ve witnessed the Arab Spring; perhaps we’re now experiencing the American Autumn.

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Filed under American Autumn, Arab Spring, movement, social change