Cheerleaders hold a special place in pop culture iconography. From Nada Surf’s “Popular” (both the video and song) to the film Heathers, and from the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to Riverdale, our fascination with girls in short skirts waving pom-poms and ruling high schools never seems to fade. But like the aforementioned references, Brooklyn-based indie-rock band Pom Pom Squad aim to warp the typical depiction of the iconic cheerleader, intent to turn the image inside out and upside down. What began as a solo project from Mia Berrin has grown into a three-piece band. Featuring band members Shelby Keller (drums), and Alex Mercuri (guitar), Pom Pom Squad’s latest album addresses Berrin’s desire for greater queer and BIPOC representation in pop culture. Death of a Cheerleader explores first queer love and, the inevitable, first queer heartbreak. Each song is tinged with desire: “My worst decisions are the ones I like the best/ Took me under the bleachers like we were seventeen,” Berrin croons in “Head Cheerleader,” but she follows the with a confession that nails young infatuation and self-obsession: “My feelings always make a fucking fool of me.” The fact that she’s singing about marrying the “scariest girl on the cheerleading team” could go unnoticed if you’re not looking for it. But the album also embraces Berrin’s desire to dispel outdated myths about the kind of music women of color make and listen to. “How rock was invented by a Black queer woman—Sister Rosetta Tharpe—but I grew up feeling like I was odd for loving guitar-based music,” Berrin writes on the band’s website. Prior to the 2021 release of Death of a Cheerleader, Pom Pom Squad were ready to blast off into popularity, with shows scheduled for SXSW and a tour opening for the Front Bottoms, but then COVID hit and everything stopped. Instead of touring the country, Berrin wrote the album that explores various genres and embraces elements of ’50s-esque MoTown, punk-inspired guitar thrash, and a sprinkling of ’90s grunge for taste. Death of a Cheerleader encompasses an array of emotions that make you want to cry straight—or queerly—into a mosh pit. This November, they’re opening for local artist Bartees Strange in D.C. Pom Pom Squad play with locals Spring Silver and Bartees Strange at 6 p.m. on Nov. 19 at 9:30 Club in Northwest. 930.com. $20.
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