SXSW Music Live: NPR Music Presents Pwr Bttm, Lizzo
Punk and pop-hop for outsiders
By Libby Webster,
1:15PM, Thu. Mar. 16, 2017
Jon Landau saw the future of rock & roll in Bruce Springsteen in ’74, but those at Stubb’s Wednesday night saw the future of punk, and its name is Pwr Bttm.
An effortless combination of glitter face paint, glam, and politics, the New York duo kicked off the NPR showcase at 7:40pm. Fleshing out a power-pop sound with the addition of a bassist and keyboardist/French horn player, Pwr Bttm – Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins – wove together cuts from upcoming Pageant and 2015 debut Ugly Cherries.
Hammering out garage rock built on hair metal riffs and pummeling drum beats about boys not texting back, while also teaching someone how to use gender-neutral pronouns, and leading an interactive chant with the audience designed to “kill fascists,” the threepiece gave 30 minutes of flamboyant, theatrical, sincere joy.
Pwr Bttm demonstrated an unabashed glee in the celebration of the self, of identity, of being “the other.” Punk has long been a stronghold of hard, performative masculinity, but Pwr Bttm destroys that belief. Hopkins doled out gnarly, heavy riffs on a bedazzled guitar, veins in his neck popping as he howled into the mic, then slipped into delicate voguing the next moment, closing the set by biting through the neckline of his sequined dress and ripping it to shreds.
And anyway, what could be more punk than the radical notion of self-love, particularly in a world so fraught with hatred and uncertainty?
Later, Minneapolis’ Lizzo subscribed to the same belief, delivering the other mind-blowing set of the night. With a big, bellowing voice, a slew of killer female backup dancers of all shapes, sizes, and skin tones, Lizzo brought down the house with her mixture of pop, soul, and hip-hop.
The 28-year-old Melissa Jefferson slipped effortlessly from bubbling, woman-empowering anthems “Good as Hell” and “Worship” to a cover of Anohni’s somber, political “Drone Bomb Me.” Like Pwr Bttm, Lizzo catering to outsiders will take her mainstream.