Local Current Blog

Review and photos: PWR BTTM throw a giant queer dance party in the Entry

PWR BTTM. Photos by Maia Jacobson for MPR.

How much do I love PWR BTTM? I spent months planning my glitter-doused outfit for the band’s first headlining show in Minneapolis: a sold-out Thursday show at the 7th St Entry.

The first opener was the solo project from Seattle-based Robin Edwards, Lisa Prank. Just a lady, her guitar, and a drum machine on stage, she got the growing crowd moving with her pop-punk tunes about relatable young-adult issues. She came out with a DIY tiara that read “PRANK,” and the words “Lisa Prank” emblazoned the back of her denim jumper in hot pink.

Edwards started with the track “Luv is Dumb,” which set the vibe with an ironic mix of happiness and sadness. She introduced the song “Jumper” by sarcastically saying, “Here’s another song from when I was sad. I’ve never been sad since, happy to report!” She played songs from her first full length album, Adult Teen, released in June. Edwards closed her set with her first single, “Starting Again,” which seemed to be a favorite.

Next on the bill were Bellows, a band also from Bard College, and their elaborate, beautifully, and precisely orchestrated songs clearly attracted their own crowd to the show. The crowd showed them a lot of love, and many people knew all the words to their songs. For the most part, they played tracks off their latest album, Fist & Palm, released Sept. 30, but there was a good mix of some older songs like “Blue Breath, Rosy Death,” which inspired more dancing from the audience.

Midway through their set, Ben from PWR BTTM yelled “Bellows Rules!” from the side of the stage, to which everyone on- and off-stage laughed and cheered in agreement. Bellows introduced their penultimate song with, “We haven’t played this song all tour, but we’re gonna try it out,” as they burst energetically into “Funny Things” — a considerably heavier song compared to the rest of the set. Bellows closed with “Spring Summer Autumn Winter,” and the crowd ate up every last second.

Finally, PWR BTTM were up. Ben Hopkins and Liv Bruce met while both attending Bard College in New York. The flamboyantly queer-punk rock duo have been gaining fame and busting down boundaries this past year by opening much-needed discussion on gender norms, creating safe spaces at their shows.

Before they began, they asked that the audience be respectful of other people’s bodies and not to open the pit, and started strong with “West Texas,” one of their most popular: everyone scream-sang every single lyric. “Oh my God, Minneapolis, this is like the most lit show we’ve ever played!” Ben laughingly said before they jumped right into the first song I ever heard from them over a year ago, “Ugly Cherries.”

PWR BTTM played five new songs in a row off a newly-recorded album; lyrical topics included Grindr, street harassment, and “pronouns of the gender-neutral variety.” The fourth new song they played was about “the herculean perils of dating straight people,” titled “LOL” — complete with a lyric that very obviously resonated with the crowd, “when you’re queer you are always 19.” The last new one was introduced by Ben as having “a twofold map of pain and suffering around it. It’s dedicated to anybody who’s ever been made to feel ridiculous for their gender identity and who they love.”

In the middle of their set they called out some people in the middle of the crowd for getting a too rowdy — “I get it, we’ve all been a little too lit before,” Ben said — but the rowdies later were removed completely by venue staff. Between songs, Ben and Liv kept up with the hilarious banter and story-telling. Instead of leaving the stage for an encore, they stayed and Ben stripped out of their dress, performing three more songs and crowd surfing in just their underwear. PWR BTTM ended the show with “New Hampshire,” Ben using a different guitar after breaking a string while shredding during “1994.”

In addition to rocking hard, both Liv and Ben give really good hugs. Liv high-fived me for breaking hearts, and Ben said they loved my glitter leggings — so the two months of planning was worth it in the end.

Maia Jacobson is a student at the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities.

Lisa Prank