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

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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.

“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.

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.