Photo: Jim Bennett (Getty Images)

In what surely qualifies as one of the more unexpected opening acts at this year’s SXSW, Russian radical political music collective Pussy Riot opened their set at the festival by revealing a surprise guest: former political prisoner and utter social-media delight Chelsea Manning, who took the stage to briefly talk about the importance of bringing an end to the contemporary prison system.

Manning said she bonded with the band after they began talking about their respective times behind bars, and realized how much their experiences had in common. “Almost like all prisons are the same, or something!” she wryly noted. Manning then used her platform to urge further support for the J20 defendants, i.e., the more than 50 people still being put on trial for “riots” that supposedly took place on Inauguration Day in 2017.

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Pussy Riot then took the stage to perform a series of politically provocative songs, complete with pounding electronics and the band’s signature knitted hoods. That was when some of the older folks in the audience quickly began making a bee-line for the exit, a sight the band’s members are presumably pretty familiar with by this point.