Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: Pom Pom Squad
Every year, NPR Music participates in the SXSW music festival, whether it's curating a stage or simply attending hundreds of shows at the annual event in Austin, Texas. In 2020, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but it returned last March as an online festival. We programmed a virtual "stage" of Tiny Desk (home) concerts in 2021 in a series called Tiny Desk Meets SXSW. This year we return again, virtually, with another round of Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: four videos filmed in various locations, all of them full of surprises.
Pom Pom Squad's Tiny Desk (home) concert starts with a well-placed sense of irony. The opening chords of "Drunk Voicemail" – brash and heavy – tease the band's lead-in, letting imagination conjure up images of dirty basements and scruffy dishevelment before revealing the truth: five people in cheesy, matching red outfits, led by Mia Berrin in puffy plaid. It's a presentation that reflects the ethos of Pom Pom Squad: to give the often self-serious genres of grunge and punk a much-needed dose of silly camp.
Death of a Cheerleader was one of the most exciting albums of 2021, a modern take on the Sleater-Kinney ethos supercharged with a Ronnie Spector-esque retro sensibility. In its work, the group aims to deconstruct the idea of the "cheerleader," allowing that central trope to make way for subversive choices both in image and in songwriting. Berrin writes romantically, but in a bitter, dissecting way, and her performance sometimes finds her at odds with the instrumentals; as the band tackles the standout track "Crying," Berrin's voice beautifully cracks and strains, adding a dose of reality to the dream-like instrumental behind her – including touring band members Lauren Marquez on bass and Camellia Hartman on violin.
After "Drunk Voicemail," Berrin makes it a point to say that she and her band "grew up on" watching Tiny Desks over the years, learning about what makes a great live performance from watching. Life imitates art, it seems, because the whole band is performing with a sense of seasoned comfort as it breezes through these five songs, inspiring even the most dour viewer to raise their own pom-poms and cheer it on.
TINY DESK TEAM
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