Although Pussy Riot first captured the attention of the world five years ago, it wasn’t until now that seeing the band behind the controversy was even possible in the United States. Following a few years of speaking engagements, the Russian troupe made their long-awaited stateside live debut in Los Angeles with a pair of performances at the Lodge Room and Bootleg Theater.

Minus some hardcore devotees that attended both shows, the crowd at the Bootleg remained largely in the dark but curiously intrigued about what to expect from a proper Pussy Riot show. After a blistering set from Desi Mo the Dogg got the sold-out crowd properly pumped, the curtain lifted to reveal Nadya Tolokonnikova and company in body bags. As they rose from the stage and broke out of their body bags via choreographed dance steps to a militaristic beat, a sampled drill sergeant barked commands, and declared, “This is not a concert!” What immediately became apparent was that the Pussy Riot live experience would be like no other.

The aforementioned unseen drill sergeant was both right and wrong about this not being a concert, however. As Pussy Riot stormed through a 45 minute set of punkish electronic pop, they did so via flag-waving, flagellation and hyper-kinetic choreographed dance steps while donning costumes, face paint and their signature balaclavas. In an episode of fantasy fulfillment, a recording piped through the speakers announcing the impeachment of Donald Trump before the hard-hitting “Make America Great Again,” which closed with Vladimir Putin escaping justice in North Korea. Through this marriage of performance art and electro-punk, Pussy Riot crafted a compelling spectacle that arrived at the most urgent of times.

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Words and photos by Frank Mojica