Mannequin Pussy invokes different, mainly positive, sentiments

The Sinclair, Cambridge, Mass., May 15, 2024

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Mannequin Pussy is a name that conjures up different thoughts, opposites if you will. One wouldn't think they would go together in the same phrase. But in the case of Philly punk band Mannequin Pussy, they did in their own way – for the most part - at the second of two sold-out shows.

This was not your straightforward rock hard punk band. Mannequin Pussy made that especially clear from the start, the very quiet "I Don't Know You." Lead singer Marisa "Missy" Dabice gently put the song across with not a whole lot of amplification of her backing quartet either. That was not the first and last time that Mannequin Pussy showed this side of their music, a good thing since that gave a variety to the sonics of the evening.

Of course, the group did rock out pretty hard also a number of times. Dabice was the clear focal point. She was a charismatic performer, confident, while comfortable and engaged with the varying styles that Mannequin Pussy would play. There don't seem to be a lot of singers who can cut it both ways as Dabice capably did.

Weighed down by what she said was a 15-pound light pink gown, Dabice danced and pranced her way through the set and clearly into the moments.

Dabice also had a good sense of humor, perhaps sometimes lightening the impact of the music. She went both ways on that near the end of the regular set in a long (10-minutes plus) performance art, political diatribe piece.

Dabice in a Marilyn Monroe-like whisper thanked the crowd for coming in an over-the-top way. "Thank you so much for being here," she said three times. "If someone forced you to come here tonight, well, don't worry baby. It's going to be over soon, okay. She's going to stop yelling you at you soon?"

She then proceeded in that same soft voice to talk about the band and soon a political flame shouting with anger. "Despite having a name like Mannequin Pussy, we take ourselves kind of seriously as artists," she said. Of course, if someone has to tell you that, maybe they don't (well, at least, all of the time).

"We think as artists, it is our job to facilitate a cathartic, joyful experience for you in a world that makes it very difficult to experience any catharsis in a world that constantly forces you to shove down your anger because they have no time for the way that you feel," Dabice continued, her voice rising in anger all of a sudden. "There's money to be made. There's fucken weapons to be sold....This place is where we have time."

Then, still with her soft whisper, Dabice seemed to go light-hearted (maybe she was serious the whole time, but it didn't always seem that way compared to the rest of the show), while talking about "pit inside of you" and the pain that people feel.

With that, Dabice went into overdrive again and railed against Israel. "We stand here as a reflection of the anger that you feel that our country would force us all to be non-consensually complicit again, with our money, for the genocide against the Palestinian people and for what? And for what? And for what?"

She then went after the U.S. politicians, calling them "war lords, and they are war criminals and they are arms dealers."

While Dabice said she was against anti-Semitism, she also said nothing about the Israelis and foreigners in Israel who were held hostage, murdered and kidnapped.

Dabice would later ask the crowd to engage in "a ritual, primal group scream." "Oh baby, don't be shy," she said. "You are not too cool for this." Most of the crowd obliged. If it accomplished anything, it was unclear.

The band then closed out the regular set with the rough-and-tumble punk of "OK? OK! OK? OK!"

With Dabice the center of Mannequin Pussy, there was not a whole lot of face time for the band itself. Guitarist Maxine Steen was stellar throughout, knocking out lick after lick from start to finish in the 80-minute set. Steen, though, was very understated in terms of being a physical presence, typically looking down with her long blonde hair covering her face.

Fortunately, more things worked for Mannequin Pussy than not. There's a lot to like about them musically with a taut band and commanding singer in Dabice. The jocular/serious performance art rant, not so much. Maybe it's just like the band's name, invoking different sentiments.

© Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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