At some point in the past few weeks, Pussy Riot became the most important band in the world. They’re not “important” in the 9.0 review on Pitchfork kind of way. Rather, Pussy Riot is a band that reminds us that music can, and does, have a very real worldwide impact.
I won’t attempt to re-report the tons of great coverage the Russian feminist punk band has received since reaching international attention, but here’s a summation: the Moscow-based band has held public performances wearing colorful masks and clothing while playing songs that directly criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as the politics of the Russian Orthodox Church. These quick concerts are filmed and then put online, having appeared in places like the band’s livejournal page. One such performance, at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, on Feb. 21, 2012, landed three of the collective’s members in jail, and after a widely publicized trial, they were found guilty of hooliganism and inciting religious hatred against the church.
The verdict has been widely criticized as overly harsh. The United States State Department, The U.S. Embassy in Russia, U.S. President Barack Obama, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, among others, have expressed disappointment or disgust with the decision. Artists including Bjork, Madonna, Tim Minchin, Zola Jesus, Patti Smith, Paul McCartney and others have expressed public indignation over the decision, while on Aug. 16 a demonstration was held in New York, where actress Chloë Sevigny, writer Eileen Myles and others read writings and court statements from the detained members of the band — Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samucevich. Vice Magazine editors got tattoos of the word “hooligan” in Russian to show their support. The Guaridan (U.K.) edited together a montage of Pussy Riot supporters with their song “Putin Lights Up the Fires.” Marches and protests have been held around the globe, with supporters donning similar attire to that worn by the band during its performances.