Walking the Walk 

Pussy Riot played at Treefort Music Fest in 2018.

Igor Mukhn

Pussy Riot played at Treefort Music Fest in 2018.

Lido Pimienta asks audiences at her concerts to allow LGBTQ folks and women of color to come closer to the stage. The exercise has made the multimedia artist famous, casting her as both a cause celebre and a controversial figure.

"At least half the media about me is clickbait," said the musician, who traveled to Boise for Treefort Music Fest and spoke at a March 23 Storyfort panel.

As Pimienta's artistic stature and fame grew, so did the pressure to cultivate a more media-friendly image. Music label representatives have asked her to sing in English rather than Spanish, lose weight and dye her hair. She rejected those overtures, calling them attempts to lead her astray from her responsibilities and her identity as a queer Afro-Colombian, single mother and Canadian.

"I am a mom. I have a family back home to support," she said. "I don't just make music for fun."

Treefort is a big umbrella, though, and the 2018 festival, which ran from March 19-25, was big enough for more than one vision of activism. Another came from Russian feminist music and performance art collective Pussy Riot. In 2012, three of its members were jailed in Russia for hooliganism after performing a "punk prayer" at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. They served two years in penal colonies before being amnestied by President Vladimir Putin, and have been regularly harassed by the successor agency to the KGB, the Federal Security Service (FSB). In February, two Pussy Riot members went missing in Crimea, only to re-emerge days later, allegedly freed from FSB custody.

At its performance at El Korah Shrine on March 24, Pussy Riot invited Boise-area women known for their activism to dress in the band's now-iconic over-the-face knit hats, skirts and safety vests, and join its members onstage.

The feminist chops of Pussy Riot have recently been called into question: One of the formerly jailed members, Maria Alyokhina, made headlines when she began dating Dmitry Enteo, a founder of the violent Russian Orthodox anti-LGBTQ group God's Will, and another—Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who has since taken the reins of the group—has been criticized for throwing an art exhibition at a gallery owned by Charles Saatchi, who was photographed in 2013 assaulting his then-wife.

Pussy Riot could not be reached for comment, but The Stranger in Seattle, Washington, called the disconnect between the the band's stated ideals and the private actions of its members "disappointing incongruities." Pimienta called it "problematic," adding that irony and shock art do little to serve the needs of the marginalized or oppressed.

"I hope they go back to the way they were in the first place," she said. "Activism shouldn't be a trend."

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