What’s so refreshing about New York based rock duo PWR BTTM is their explicit embrace of queerness within their work. The wildly prolific author and activist Sarah Schulman writes in In Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences of queer creators who sadly become successful only by eliminating queerness from their work and embracing heteronormativity–that is not what Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins do in PWR BTTM. Their music, and presence–both online and on stage–disentangles and confronts society’s attribution of gender and sexuality in a way that is undeniably soothing to my queer self, but also genuinely sonically entrancing.
The playful dressing Bruce and Hopkins embrace is immediately noticeable when seeing the band play live, for instance, Hopkins’ face is never not thickly glittered. But their lyrics allow audiences to recognize what is not immediately noticeable: the way that we all costume ourselves as a way of interacting with our gender identities. For example, on “Serving Goffman,” a song from their debut album Ugly Cherries, Bruce sings “I wanna put the whole world in drag / But I’m starting to realize it’s already like that.” Needless to say, PWR BTTM’s music is exhilarating as a queer audience member but what’s more exhilarating is their genuine selfless aid to the queer community.
That desire was demonstrated in their response to the Orlando shooting at queer night club and safe space, Pulse, this weekend. Following the tragedy, PWR BTTM announced that the proceeds from their Orlando show tomorrow, 6/17, at the Orlando venue, BACKBOOTH, will be donated to the Pulse Tragedy Community Fund. The band told Brooklyn Magazine that along with the rest of the bands on the bill, they felt donating the proceeds to the fund was the least they could do:
“We’re lucky enough that our shows are places where queer people can gather and feel like they’re a part of a community, something larger than themselves,” the band said. “Pulse nightclub and other gay meeting places perform that same function. Along with Petal, Pity Sex we think donating the proceeds of our show in Orlando is the least we can do. It’d be irresponsible not to.”
If you’re not in Orlando for the show, consider independently donating to the fund here. If you’ve yet to hear Ugly Cherries, get it here.