Despite what your conservative Facebook friends tell you, all of this is political.
Police brutality is political. Gender-neutral bathrooms are political. Being queer or black or both in America is political. And, in its own way, Thursday night at Lost Lake was political.
It was happening blocks from the Black Lives Matter protests at Civic Center Park. And it was happening while #AltonSterling and #PhilandoCastile trended and a protest in Dallas became the site of a shooting. It was also a totally normal night for a gig.
Just like any other night on a PWR BTTM tour, excited pods of teenagers showed up early, faces slathered with glitter and hands marked with black Sharpie X's. The signs indicating that venue bathrooms were gender-neutral had been posted. Petal (real name: Kiley Lotz) played a standard 45-minute set, covered Prince, and joked that her guitar woes were making her sound more metal than intended. Business as usual.
Until those moments when it wasn’t. Lotz paused between songs to admit to crying often over the previous two days, weighed down by the ever-growing list of black victims of police brutality.
PWR BTTM started with a similar non-polarizing normalcy. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Hopkins laughed about being shocked by the microphone, thanks to the amount of glitter they were wearing on their face. They then laid down the not-so-apolitical ground rules.
“I want to say that our shows are safer-spaces shows,” Hopkins said. “Don’t push anyone or affect anyone’s space.”
And without so much as batting a sparkly eye, the band launched into a punchy rendition of “West Texas.” Hopkins spent the set testing the limits of how to move while wearing a guitar, which is to say they were vogue-ing in the most punk-rock way possible.
What followed was the usual PWR BTTM hilarity, including jokes about Pokémon Go, Shrek, used condoms, and trading blow jobs for weed. Liv Bruce, PWR BTTM’s other half, lifted a leg over the drum kit to show off their “wine mom sandals.” The band blasted through a new song about using gender-neutral pronouns and incited animated sing-alongs with “Dairy Queen” and “I Wanna Boi.”
You’d be forgiven for thinking the gig was a double bill based on the enthusiastic response received by PWR BTTM; lone headliners Pity Sex played the straight man to their second opening act – pun absolutely intended. After opening with a forceful rendition of “Burden You,” co-frontwoman Britty Drake confessed that she had to temporarily dampen the mood. She addressed the murders of Sterling and Castile, along with the systemic failures that perpetuate racialized violence in this country.
“I’m not trying to be a white knight,” she concluded. “But it would be against everything I believe in not to say something.”
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And then it was back to the show. It was back to drummer Sean St. Charles pounding his kit with abandon. Co-frontman Brennan Graves laughed about his vegan-food-induced stomachache between tracks from sophomore album White Hot Moon. “Dogwalk,” from 2012’s Dark World EP, provided a brutally good finale. As expected, the crowd cheered, checked their phones as they left, got in their cars, went home.