When original Riot Grrrl Kathleen Hanna began Bikini Kill in the early ’90s, she made her shows into places for settling feminist scores. Girls were called to the front of the crowd, the band thrashed ferociously onstage while Hanna screamed about the grrrl revolution and ultimately Hanna was credited with pioneering the Riot Grrrl movement. She was, as the 2013 documentary The Punk Singer illustrates, a punk icon.
Hanna later moved on to fronting the feminist-minded electro pop group Le Tigre, but before this foray she released a solo album called Julie Ruin, a title she has spun into the name of her current, post-Le Tigre band, for which she now writes and sings.
Hanna is now several decades into an extremely influential career—and years into a debilitating struggle with Lyme Disease—but the face she showed her fans at Lincoln Hall on April 9 was of a beaming, quick-witted goofball who exudes appreciation for her fans. In fact, Hanna seems grateful just to perform–for reasons likely both physical and cultural—and said as much to her diverse group of fans. “The younger generation is going to do things so much better,” she said. “Older people such as myself will hopefully have a place to play.”
With the crisp 60-minute performance The Julie Ruin (which includes bassist Kathi Wilcox from Bikini Kill) put on, that place seems inevitable.
The band’s 2013 album Run Fast managed the feat of actually sounding better live than it did as an album, and Hanna was larger than life. Vacillating between her perennial girlishness and the deep vocal bellow she summons when she means business, songs like “Oh Come On” and “Cookie Road” were cathartic exaltations. The encore song, “Run Fast”—though about the strife of being young and female—felt somehow sentimental with its cinematic synths and Hanna’s unwavering delivery. And then there were the romantic tracks: “Just My Kind,” a ’60s pop style number that Hanna wrote about her husband (former Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz), and a Le Tigre song, “Eau D’Bedroom Dancing,” with an ethereal quality Hanna captured perfectly onstage.
Other blasts from the past included Le Tigre’s “Friendship Station”—a little different with keyboardist Kenny Mellman shouting the chorus, but still satisfying—and “One Sweet Song” from Hanna’s original solo record. Although Hanna likely felt obligated to toss in a few hits from her previous lives, her new material was strong enough to stand on its own. This is reassuring news: Hanna has made a helluva feminist impact, and while her urgency may have slightly softened, this performance showed that her undeniable star quality won’t be going anywhere.
All photos by Carly Fisher