Why I’m gay for PWR BTTM (and you should be too)
PWR BTTM | via pwrbttm.bandcamp.comGrowing up gay in the Clinton years made it hard to do a lot of things. Among them was finding people who shared my insatiable thirst for and ever-evolving taste in music. Not many rural Maryland teens had space in their CD players for Ray of Light-era Madonna, vintage Depeche Mode, or even the deeper cuts of peak Garbage (whose frontwoman Shirley Manson remains an underrated queer icon and my personal savior). As I began to trickle out of the closet in college, I found the same challenge attacking from the other side. My first openly gay acquaintances had just as hard of a time wrapping their heads around the queer, feminist punk of early Sleater-Kinney, for instance. Few people seemed to occupy my then desolate middle ground, and even fewer artists on my radar at the time seemed to play in it.
Enter PWR BTTM about a decade and change after the fact. The duo of Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins are punks who proudly cite Kylie Minogue as an influence on their Facebook, the kind of band that not only speaks to me but for me. Unabashedly, unapologetically queer in style and storytelling, they combine the perk of Pansy Division with the poignancy of Perfume Genius on their debut long-player Ugly Cherries, out now on Father/Daughter records. Over surging pop-punk riffs, they swagger and sucker-punch with songs that nail the fun, fumbles, and fears of being young and other. Look no further than the opening couplet of early album highlight “Dairy Queen” for one of the more powerful demonstrations of this dichotomy:
“We can do our makeup in the parking lot/We can get so famous that we both get shot”
Their live show has already garnered a rollicking reputation as well. All thrash and thrift drag, they’re known to perfectly articulate and attack the gender-normative posturing that occurs at too many of their peers’ parties and punk shows. Fortunately, they’ll find themselves in good company at their upcoming, sold out show at PhilaMOCA, where they’ll play alongside I Tried to Run Away When I Was 6, Palehound, and the mighty Mitski, all formidable acts in their own right who share and nail the experience of not quite fitting the preconceptions of their respective communities.
Mitski may be the headliner, but anyone with a ticket would be wise to get there early to see PWR BTTM spread their gospel—and glitter. I understand there is a lot of glitter. They’re the kind of band mid-decade me would have kicked myself for missing back in the day. I might have even made some friends through them.