Pussy Riot: Riot Days at The Art School, Glasgow, 21/11/ 2017

“To back down an inch is to give up a mile”

“They ask you to be as punk as possible” cries the M.C. That’s not going to be a problem here in Glasgow, a room full of hard hitting punk fans flocking to the speakers, filled with the interlude sounds of Stiff Little Fingers, Buzzcocks and Stooges; and no last-minute change from Oran Mor to The Art School is going to change that.

Coinciding with the release of Maria Alyokhina’s new book ‘Riot Days’, the five piece storm the stage, images blazing behind of a revolution held, and far from the celebrated mastery of 1917. Trademark balaclavas are held, Fidel Castro’s quotes are embolded on a projector, John Lennon’s piano from Instant Karma is sampled, this is more than a concert; this is a movement (somewhere wherever they are, Lennon, Strummer and Edwards are smiling at the gig).

And no punches are pulled, playing to the idea that a protest in a church could land people in the worst of prisons. Footage taken outside cold, snowy prisons show the harsh reality of political sloganeering. Alyokhina and colleagues Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were imprisoned for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”, performing in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. It’s no laughing matter, and one that heads straight for the consciousness.  This writer’s decision to eyeline himself as Marc Bolan and scarf himself like John Deacon has been met with some sneers and jeers in Ireland, this author’s points that Jeremy Corbyn was right to support Martin McGuinness has been met with bemusement since moving to the U.K.; yet, I daren’t think what my Russian equivalent would undergo.

Hip-hop snares and drum beat bares the soulbearing on stage, there is a pace to this gig, frenetic and anarchic. Everyone comes in watching Pussy Riot, everyone enjoys the gig chanting Pussy Riot, everyone leaves being Pussy Riot, as is their wont.

Before Pussy Riot enter, Glaswegian duo BDY_PRTS open the show with a set attached with a flair for the theatrical and a musical touch of Kate Bush esoteric pop. It’s a melange of psychedelic coloured pants, thriving riffs and preternatural singing. With their debut Fly Invisible Hero available for sale on 24 November 24, this is a duo in the heels of bigger things.

But the biggest attention is drawn to the headliners. Alyokina is a daring performer, taut in her delivery, shaded (literally, by sunglasses) in combative costume, Alyokina speaks and the Glasgow crowd calls and cackles in response. “To back down an inch is to give up a mile” she calls in Russian, the message understood even without the help of subtitles. An even greater cheer is held when she calls that Pussy Riot shut down Trump Tower. Kyril Masheka throws water to the ever thirsty crowd, a choreography of excitingly violent dance moves. Those at the front are thrusted into the anarchic energy, those further back have a greater eye’s view of the camera’s ever exposing truth.

It proves that energy came be brought upon by art. This is art more exciting than an album, this is the truth more honestly displayed than any may wish to see. This is Pussy Riot.


❉ Eoghan Lyng is a writer, part-time English teacher and full-time lover of life. 

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