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Russian punk band Pussy Riot to headline St. Pete Pride concert

The band, whose members have been repeatedly arrested in Russia in the past decade, are part of a star-packed month for the event’s 20th anniversary.
Russian punk band Pussy Riot, shown here in 2012 after the band first came to the attention of Russian authorities when they performed a scandalous protest song in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral in 2012. Lead musician Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, in the blue mask, is the only member of the collective confirmed for the June 24 concert for St. Pete Pride.
Russian punk band Pussy Riot, shown here in 2012 after the band first came to the attention of Russian authorities when they performed a scandalous protest song in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral in 2012. Lead musician Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, in the blue mask, is the only member of the collective confirmed for the June 24 concert for St. Pete Pride. [ Associated Press (2012) ]
Published May 19

The Russian punk band Pussy Riot, whose singers Lucy Shtein and Maria Alyokhina recently escaped from house arrest in Russia, will perform a concert the night before St. Pete Pride’s big parade in St. Petersburg. And comic Sandra Bernhard will also perform in June for a star-packed month of events for St. Pete Pride’s 20th anniversary.

It was a week before the war in Ukraine broke out that St. Pete Pride organizers signed Pussy Riot to perform, in part because they have the same booking agent as singer Todrick Hall, the American Idol and Masked Singer alum who is also performing at the concert June 24, said Tiffany Freisberg, president of St. Pete Pride.

Members of the punk group Pussy Riot, shown scrapping with Russian police in 2014 during the Winter Olympics, include Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in the blue balaclava. She will be among the collective's members performing at St. Pete Pride June 24.
Members of the punk group Pussy Riot, shown scrapping with Russian police in 2014 during the Winter Olympics, include Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in the blue balaclava. She will be among the collective's members performing at St. Pete Pride June 24. [ MORRY GASH | AP ]

“I had a moment where I thought, ‘Do we bring in a band from Russia?’ But this is exactly what we stand for,” Freisberg said. “They have the most to lose and they are doing it right there with a whole lot of courage.”

The band, known for wearing brightly colored ski masks when performing, is a collective of sometimes as many as a dozen. The only performer Freisberg was promised would be there is lead musician Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who was sentenced to two years in prison after the band first came to the attention of Russian authorities when Pussy Riot performed a scandalous protest song in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral in 2012.

Marchers at the last St. Pete Pride parade in 2019. The event returns for a month of star-packed activities in June in St. Petersburg.
Marchers at the last St. Pete Pride parade in 2019. The event returns for a month of star-packed activities in June in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times (2019)  ]

Band members have been repeatedly arrested by Russian authorities in the past decade as they expressed strong criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin. They also have voiced support for feminism, LGBTQ rights and transgender rights, and they participated in the banned 2011 Gay Pride rally in Moscow. They were briefly detained after the rally was broken up by police.

The St. Pete Pride Parade on June 25 is back for the first time since 2019, one of the largest such parades in the Southeast. There will also be a Juneteenth celebration and a big street carnival June 26 that will shut down the streets in the city’s Grand Central district.

As part of St Pete Pride’s 20th anniversary programming, comedian Sandra Bernhard will perform at the Palladium Theater at 7 p.m. June 12. Tickets are $45. And celebrity host Carson Kressley of Queer Eye and RuPaul’s Drag Race will lead a funny sing-along night called Queer-E-Okee on June 11. Tickets are $45-$75.

For information and a full schedule, see stpetepride.org.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova spoke to the media after leaving prison in Krasnoyarsk, Russia in 2013. The Russian band Pussy Riot is a collective of sometimes more than a dozen performers. Tolokonnikova, its lead musician, will play at a St. Pete Pride concert June 24.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova spoke to the media after leaving prison in Krasnoyarsk, Russia in 2013. The Russian band Pussy Riot is a collective of sometimes more than a dozen performers. Tolokonnikova, its lead musician, will play at a St. Pete Pride concert June 24. [ TATYANA VISHNEVSKAYA | AP ]
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