4/3/14 – The Sinclair

Riot grrrls of Boston and those who respect them came out to see the queen of their world, Kathleen Hanna, perform a sold out show with her current band The Julie Ruin at the Sinclair on March 3rd. Seeing the original riot grrrl, key player in the creation of third wave feminism, and punk icon live was a surreal happening for all, that many suspected they’d never experience since Hanna stopped performing in 2005 due to her serious battle with late stage Lyme Disease. Hanna’s epic and inspiring past along with her present ailment are detailed in the recently released and much acclaimed documentary The Punk Singer.

The name The Julie Ruin is derived from Hanna’s 1998 independently produced and electronically influenced record Julie Ruin, a work inspired by the creative mysticism of girls’ bedrooms, and was in fact created by Hanna by herself in her bedroom. The multi-person live version of this album would become Hanna’s second band Le Tigre. Hanna enlisted fellow Bikini Kill veteran Kathi Wilcox, along with Carmine Covelli, Sara Landeau, and Kenny Mellman and formed The Julie Ruin in 2010. Their debut album Run Fast was released in September 2013 on Dischord Records.

With a name that embodies Hanna’s lifelong aesthetic, Jersey’s Screaming Females opened the show by socking the audience in the face with their aggressively emotive vocals and growling guitar riffs. Vocalist, guitarist, and driving force of the band Marissa Paternoster said minimal words between songs, sweetly and quietly uttering multiple times that they are The Screaming Females from New Brunswick, New Jersey, and not much else. As soon as each song started, however, the girl in all black would transform into a transcendent synthesis of shoegaze and riot grrrl, lunging into the microphone with full force and eyes closed in passion. During the final song Paternoster let her guitar fall and crouched on the ground screaming, while female, into the mic, proceeding to reconvene with her guitar while flailing on the ground.

The Julie Ruin took the stage to uproarious applause and bated breath. Hanna emerged in a DKNY pantless denim leotard/jumpsuit because she “heard the 90s are back.” Despite coming on stage with a cup of tea and proceeding to down impressive amounts of water throughout, no one would suspect a problem with Hanna’s unique and throaty singing style. Her voice was powerful and humorous and youthful and she danced and shook her high ponytail around the stage without a care. Every song was performed with dedication and flare, perfectly complimented by the friendly male singing voice of Kenny Mellman (Herb of duo Kiki and Herb), the percussive enthusiasm of Covelli, and the untouchable coolness of Landeu and Wilcox.  Because of the fascinating greatness of the band members the set abounded with humorous commentary. At one point they asked the crowd a trivia question to give away free movie tickets they received as a result of the projector malfunctioning when they went to see Noah (Hanna made it known she was not in attendance).

Many of the Julie Ruin’s songs are lyrical microcosms of the band’s fun and empowering message including “Girls Like Us” and “Oh Come On,” although Hanna joked that the majority of the band’s songs are about codependency (and euthanasia), like their cover Le Tigre’s “Eu d’Bedroom Dancing” and the band’s own “Party City.” All was going smoothly until a male fan blasphemed by requesting they play Bikini Kill hit “Rebel Girl,” to the audience’s great discomfort. Hanna waited a few moments for the audience to respond to him before encouraging the fan to “start your own Bikini Kill cover band and play the songs faster and better than we ever could. We’ll come see you play.”

Riot Grrrls Like Us: The Julie Ruin and Screaming Females
  • Kathleen Hanna
  • High energy
  • Flawless sound
  • Anticlimactic encore
7.3Overall Score

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