Finding catharsis with Mannequin Pussy, live at the Teragram Ballroom

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Mannequin Pussy performing live at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 30. 2021. Henry Slatore/The Occidental

How does one work through the complicated pain of the last year and a half? A year and a half defined by the pandemic and so much more, in which almost everyone was separated from other people and left with few outlets to properly express their anger. For Marisa “Missy” Dabice, lead singer and guitarist of the Philadelphia pop-punk band Mannequin Pussy, the answer is simple.

“On the count of three, I want everyone to scream as loud as they can,” Dabice said, almost whispering into her microphone.

Touring for the first time since the 2021 release of their EP “Perfect,” Mannequin Pussy had the feel of a band attempting to grapple with and move on from the uniquely 2020 issues they highlight on the project. Thankfully for the sold-out crowd Sept. 30 at the Teragram Ballroom, this was an inclusive endeavor, with Dabice inviting everyone to join her in cathartic expressions of rage. For a band that has spent the last decade equally as concerned with expressing their personal trauma as with creating hits, it was no surprise that the references to our recent and generally collective sufferings were numerous and explicit. Completing this effort was a large image of George Floyd with a microphone positioned next to his mouth, draped over a speaker by the band’s one Black member, bassist Colins “Bear” Regisford.

Two openers started the night, bands Pinkshift, led by Ashrita Kumar, and Angel Du$t, led by Justice Tripp, both hailing from Baltimore. Both groups sought to subvert the typical pop-punk formula — Pinkshift toward a No Doubt inspired, Y2K commercial sound, and Angel Du$st with a jangly, countrified take on the genre. Coming out first was the youthful Pinkshift, looking fresh out of a Zoom class as they played an energetic and excitable set, fitting for a band whose most popular song is titled “i’m gonna tell my therapist on you.” With their guitarist, Paul Vallejo, wearing a light-up cat ear headband that couldn’t seem to stay on, Pinkshift was fun, and clearly had dedicated fans in the audience. Following was Angel Du$t, with Tripp donning an out of place acoustic guitar and strumming like a country star, a new approach for the band highlighted on their upcoming album “YAK: A Collection Of Truck Songs.” Though Angel Du$t also clearly had fans in the crowd, I found the set disjointed and unenjoyable.

A breath of fresh air after the inconsistent openers, Mannequin Pussy walked on stage with the comfortable confidence of a headliner, quickly setting up and beginning their set with a loud and expressive rendition of hit song “Romantic,” off of their 2016 album of the same name. For the first time all night, the whole crowd was engaged, with a consistent but relaxed mosh pit forming in front of the stage, everyone keen to not push too hard. Wearing forest green leggings and a very floral top, adding to her already long red hair, Dabice looked like a punk-rock Poison Ivy, commanding the stage with her ecstatic vocals.

Very aware of the climate they were performing in, Dabice made numerous remarks to the world outside the show, earnestly thanking the crowd for wearing masks and keeping their communities safe, and once reminding the crowd that everything that had gone wrong in the last year and a half was due to white supremacy.

“And if you’re a white person here who is not about [dismantling white supremacy], you can get out,” Dabice said to great cheers.

Their first tour without founding member Athanasios Paul, who left after the recording of “Perfect,” the now trio Mannequin Pussy — Dabice, Regisford and drummer Kaleen Reading — was filled out by touring musicians Max Steen and Carolyn Haynes. Haynes, switching between guitar and keyboard, and Steen, playing guitar in a DMT-logoed hat, added great depth to the band, elevating each song with increased noise and energy.

After half an hour of high-velocity sound and energetic displays of feeling, Mannequin Pussy slowed it down for a memorable version of their 2019 song “High Horse.” The entire crowd fell silent as Dabice and crew powered through the emotionally rich song, a good reminder of the band’s core values, never sacrificing catharsis for simple fun. This ethos was again on display during the last song of the night with “Pigs is Pigs,” an anti-cop screamer and the only Mannequin Pussy song with Regisford on lead vocals. The night ended with a much welcomed two-song encore, the crowd leaving nothing behind on the beer-stained floor.