Mannequin Pussy’s “I Got Heaven” Tour is a Masterclass of Liberation and Activism

By: Kimberly Kapela – Photo by: Millicent-Hailes

Loud barks and cries for liberation were heard throughout Chicago’s Thalia Hall venue on Wednesday, April 10 as it was electrified by the raw energy and boundary-defying sound of Mannequin Pussy as they took to the stage for a sold-out show. The occasion? The fourth show of their I Got Heaven tour, celebrating their fourth studio album of the same name.

Mannequin Pussy has always been a band that defies easy categorization, seamlessly blending elements of punk, shoegaze, and power pop into a potent cocktail of sound. With I Got Heaven, they’ve pushed their sonic boundaries even further, crafting an album that serves as both a testament to their evolution as artists and a rallying cry for liberation.

From the moment they stepped onto the stage at Thalia Hall, it was clear that Mannequin Pussy was on a mission. With frontwoman Marisa Dabice leading the charge with her fierce vocals and frenetic stage presence, the band tore through a setlist that spanned their career, from early favorites to tracks off their latest album.

Songs like “Drunk II” and “Cream” crackled with intensity, while newer tracks like “Of Her” and the album’s title track, “I Got Heaven,” showcased the band’s growth and maturity as songwriters. Each song was delivered with a visceral energy that reverberated throughout the venue, leaving the audience breathless and exhilarated.

Mannequin Pussy kicked off the evening not with their signature punk-infused energy, but instead with the ethereal strains of “I Don’t Know You.” As the haunting melody filled the venue, there was a palpable shift in the atmosphere. The audience, accustomed to Mannequin Pussy’s blistering punk soundscapes, found themselves drawn into a softer, more introspective realm. Dabice’s voice, a powerhouse of raw intensity, took on a tender quality as she delivered the song’s poignant lyrics.

At the heart of I Got Heaven beats a thematic pulse of liberation and freedom. Each track serves as a poignant meditation on breaking free from the shackles of societal norms, emotional constraints, and existential uncertainties. This thematic exploration finds its resonance in the “Softly” performance. Guided by the influences of 90s alt-rock, “Softly” channels the spirit of iconic albums like Hole’s Live Through This (1994). From the first notes, fans are enveloped in a world of gritty realism juxtaposed with shimmering melodies and dreamy guitar tones.

Throughout “Loud Bark,” Dabice commanded the stage, effortlessly transitioning from feather-like whispers to haunting moans and fierce barks and growls. Dabice’s vocals, at once delicate and powerful, wove a mesmerizing spell over the audience as the crowd sang, “I am a loud bark, deep bite / A loud bark, deep bite / I got a loud bark, deep bite.” Imagery of dogs and leashes emerged as a powerful metaphor for autonomy and control. With each bark and growl, Dabice seemed to shed the constraints of societal norms and expectations, embracing her own wildness and freedom.

With a magnetic presence that demanded attention, Dabice moved effortlessly among the audience, making her way to the barricade where she sang directly to fans during “I Got Heaven,” locking eyes with them as she delivered each line with unwavering intensity. The crowd erupted into a frenzy of moshing and jumping, caught up in the raw energy of the performance screaming, “I went and walked myself like a dog without a leash / Now I’m growling at a stranger / I am biting at their knees.” Throughout the performance, Dabice’s vocal delivery is nothing short of breathtaking.

In the midst of their set, the frontwoman paused to deliver a moment of profound sincerity and intensity. With the music momentarily hushed, she addressed the audience with a heartwarming and impassioned speech that touched on themes of pain, healing, and activism. Dabice spoke of the universal experience of carrying a pit in one’s stomach, a deep-seated ache that can sometimes feel overwhelming.

But rather than shy away from this pain, she urged the audience to confront it head-on, to acknowledge it and let it out. “We need to scream,” she proclaimed, her voice ringing out with a fierce determination. “Because we are too beautiful for that pain to take over.”

Inviting everyone present to join her in a collective release, Dabice led the audience in a cathartic scream, a moment of raw emotion that reverberated through the venue. It was a gesture of solidarity and empowerment, a reminder that together, we have the strength to overcome even the deepest of wounds.

But Dabice didn’t stop there. With the energy in the room palpable, she took the opportunity to address another pressing issue: the ongoing genocide against Palestinians. With a quiet intensity, she spoke out against the atrocities being committed and called on the audience to speak up and hold our government accountable. “You’re not crazy,” she affirmed, her voice ringing with conviction.

Bassist Colin “Bear” Regisford emerges as a commanding presence, seizing the spotlight with his ferocious energy and unyielding passion. In songs like “OK? OK! OK? OK!” and “Pigs Is Pigs,” Regisford takes center stage, unleashing an onslaught of hardcore energy that refuses to be contained. With lyrics that speak of frustration, anger, and defiance, he channels the collective angst of a generation, giving voice to the unspoken struggles that lie beneath the surface.

As the final chords of Mannequin Pussy’s “Romantic” performance fade into the night, there’s a sense of profound catharsis lingering in the air. Throughout the evening, the band stayed true to their core DIY punk roots, delivering a show that was passionate, fierce, and undeniably healing.

From the moment they took to the stage to the last note of their encore, Mannequin Pussy created an intense, cleansing sound bath for their audience. As they celebrated their return with a new era of music, Mannequin Pussy urged their fans to embrace the rawness of their emotions. With lyrics that spoke to the universal experience of pain and longing, they encouraged their audience to heal the pit in their stomach, to scream, bark, and growl unapologetically.


Mannequin Pussy’s music feels like a resilient and galvanizing shout that demands to be heard. Across four albums, the Philadelphia rock band that consists of Colins “Bear” Regisford (bass, vocals), Kaleen Reading (drums, percussion), Maxine Steen (guitar, synths), and Marisa Dabice (guitar, vocals) has made cathartic tunes about despairing times. “There’s just so much constantly going on that feels intentionally evil that trying to make something beautiful feels like a radical act ,” says Dabice.

“The ethos of this band has always been to bring people together.” Their latest I Got Heaven, which is out March 1 via Epitaph Records, is the band’s most fully realized LP yet. Over 10 ambitious tracks which abruptly turn from searing punk to inviting pop, the album is deeply concerned with desire, the power in being alone, and how to live in an unfeeling and unkind world. It’s a document of a band doubling down on their unshakable bond to make something furious, thrilling, and wholly alive.

Following the 2019 release of their critically acclaimed third album Patience, Mannequin Pussy returned in 2021 for their EP Perfect. They toured that release relentlessly and added guitarist Maxine Steen to the band’s official lineup. Where the band members’ personal lives were in transition with breakups, changing living situations, and periods of self-reevaluation, their time together on the road was a grounding and clarifying force.

“There was so much going on in our lives that it was the perfect opportunity to recalibrate who we were as people and musicians,” says Regisford. The band changed their entire formula, choosing to write together in Los Angeles with producer John Congleton over slowly crafting tracks at home. “When I’ve written songs, it’s usually a very solitary process,” says Dabice. “So this was shedding a lot of those hermit-like qualities to do something intensively collaborative. Your best work comes when you allow other people into it.”

By December 2022, the band had 17 new songs written with Congleton in Los Angeles. “Everyone felt empowered to speak up about their own ideas to make this thing the best it could possibly be,” says Regisford. New member Maxine Steen, who has made music with Dabice for years including their side project Rosie Thorne, was especially essential to the writing sessions.

The album opener “I Got Heaven” initially started as one of Steen’s demos. “When she showed it to me I knew it was going to be fun because the verses have this hard-hitting and aggressive approach but the chorus allows for a really soaring melody,” says Dabice. The result is electric. Over walloping guitar riffs, Dabice defiantly yells, “And what if I’m an angel? Oh what if I’m a bore? And what if I was confident would you just hate me more?

The song with its righteous lyrical blending of the sacred and profane is an unapologetic look at Christian hypocrisy. “I don’t think there’s ever been anything in need of a spiritual revolution more than modern-day Christianity,” says Dabice. “It sickens me the way that people use it as a way to do the worst things imaginable, say the worst things imaginable, and pass the worst imaginable legislation that directly harms people.”

Instead of judgment, greed, and avarice, the songs on I Got Heaven ask what it really means to genuinely care about the people around you and help your communities in ways you can. “The world that we live in is heaven,” says Dabice. “We live on the most beautiful planet in the solar system, just by a chance and we are continuingly destroying it.”

This sentiment is mirrored by the album’s cover art: a figure and a pig in nature. There’s an intentional ambiguity there that makes you wonder if this person is leading the animal to slaughter or its protector. “We should really be the shepherds and the protectors of everything that we have and the world we live in,” says Dabice.

I Got Heaven is an album that understands the stakes of its message: there are countless references to fire, hunger, and holiness. Here, teeth gnash and bodies are temples that ache with desire. On the yearning single “Nothing Like,” which is anchored by a dancey, shuffling drum beat from Reading, Dabice’s voice eventually morphs from a coo to a roar as she sings, “Oh what’s wrong with dreaming of burning this all down?”

Even when the songs on I Got Heaven don’t deal with fundamental human questions about how to live, Mannequin Pussy still finds ways to add urgency and resonance. Just take the buoyant and playful single “I Don’t Know You,” which slowly builds to a hair-raising peak with Reading’s brushed percussion, Steen’s enveloping synths, and a thoughtful groove from Regisford.

“On that song, I changed the tuning last minute which transformed the song but everyone instinctively knew what to do,” says Dabice. “It was really cool to watch a song come alive in real-time. It’s such a gift to meet other people who are creatively on the same wavelength as you, where there’s no judgment in sharing ideas.”

The lightness of this track pairs perfectly with the rest of the tracklist, even when it’s snarling rock like “Loud Bark” or punishing hardcore punk with Regisford sharing lead vocal duties on “OK? OK! OK? OK!” “If you’re a Mannequin Pussy fan, you know that we’re going to have some rippers,” says Regisford. “We’re gonna have something that’s going to be in your face.

But we’re also going to give you something that’s going to be light to the touch with its own version of aggression.” The loud and uncompromising single “Of Her,” finds Dabice screaming, “I was born / Of her fire / Of sacrifices That were made / So I could make it.” It’s a song about living life without regrets and understanding the sacrifices that you and your parents, especially your mother, made to allow you to live the life you want.

I Got Heaven is a visceral and stunning album for people who aren’t content with the status quo, made by people who challenged themselves and got out of their comfort zone. ”We’re supposed to be living in the freest era ever so what it means to be a young person in this society is the freedom to challenge these systems that have been put on to us,” says Dabice. “It makes sense to ask, what ultimately am I living for? What is it that makes me want to live?”

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