Bikini Kill! Live!

The last time I found myself in Chicago, Illinois, it was late September 2017 and it happened to be 100 literal degrees, breaking all kinds of weather records. We had chosen to visit The Windy City because neither myself or my husband had ever been there before. We both love art, we both love hot dogs and pizza, and we both love exploring. We did the architecture boat tour: sounds lame and isn’t! Every building there is different, rebuilt after the fire, and even though we were in direct sunlight and walking all over the city, sweating our asses off, and riding the very clean L train, we had a fabulous time. It’s nice there. Upon our return to our beloved Brooklyn, I got wildly sick and was in bed for days.

Fast forward lol gasp! six years to …right now. When our friend/my pretty-much-sister-in-law was spending the month of April in Chicago, with an extra room. Do we want to come visit? “As long as it’s not 100 degrees,” I said! Our plan was for late April so I knew it couldn’t be 100. I knew it. It would be actually impossible. What could go wrong? Coincidentally, I had had a cough for two weeks and was just, living life being sick. I get sick often and it likes to last a long time due to reasons I’d rather not get in here. Let’s call it “my immune system is compromised.” I brought my inhaler, my Hauls, wore my mask, and hoped for the best. My cough had died down a lot. Luckily when we got there, it was 60 and sunny and then….it hailed. Or, excuse me it was graupel-ing. Have you heard of graupel? It’s like big chunks of course salt, only a bit thicker, not quite hail, flaking from the sky. Then it was snowing with a wind chill of 30. This is when our friend informed us that just a few days ago it was 80 degrees. I’d post of a video of it here but I don’t want to upgrade my WordPress. We’re lo-fi here.

It’s hard not to tell a story without the weather these days. Especially when the weather can’t stop itself from being a huge pain in the ass. I packed layers. I coughed my way around Chicago, into my elbow, quivering in and out of the zoo in the hot houses full of bugs and animals and back into the cold. I didn’t think I was going to make it. And then I did make it. All the way to seeing Bikini Kill live!

The point of this post is I saw Bikini Kill. Live! Yes! That Bikini Kill. A few days before our trip my friend texted, saying her Zoomer Cousin informed her of this show and asked if she was going. “Do I want to go see Bikini Kill?” She asked me. She asked because I am over texting people and have brought back the phone call. Despite my raspy, muppet voice I called her to reply to a text; I knew it would be faster to talk for 15 minutes than text for 25.

“Yes,” I heaved into the phone. “I can’t wait to be mean to every man we see. There better be no men there.”

My husband made a date with himself to read at a dive bar in the neighborhood, his usual preferred activity.

Reader: there were men there. I don’t know what they were doing there but they were there. Pretending? Being fans? Listening? Doing whatever they want because they’re individuals with free will? It annoyed me. There were lot of elder punks there, at the Salt Shed, the original Morton’s Salt place. It was a big venue, with an outdoor space for warmer weather festival, food trucks, art shops, and the like. The indoor capacity is 3,500. It felt bigger than that. There were women older than me, almost every one of them wearing a leather jacket. Hmm. We had General Admission tickets and didn’t have to claw our way toward the stage because this isn’t New York City, it’s The Midwest where EVERYONE IS TOO NICE. Someone apologized to my husband at the bar for ordering ahead of him even though he was clearly standing there first. What the fuck? I wasn’t there but I was outraged over a stranger apologizing to him for no reason??? What the hell is The Midwest anyways? I don’t get it. We made our way toward the stage, almost too close to the PA system; luckily I had my earplugs with me, which I realized I need to replace when I said I’ve had them since I bought them at the 930 club in DC over ten years ago out loud and …realized…how disgusting that is. Everyone I was with found my need and concern over ear plugs, and their lack of, weird. I lost my hearing a lot at shows in my 20s. People are fools. Protect your hearing! We missed the opener and BK came out sooner than the anticipated 9:45p, something me and my friend were thinking was …a little late. Because we’re not 23 anymore. It was certainly not intimate but that didn’t stop Kathleen Hannah from chatting with the crowd, sometimes longer than the songs.

Admittedly I am a bad punk because I don’t know any Bikini Kill music other than “Rebel Girl.” This also makes me a bad woman. But woman I am, I identify, and I know my musical shit. I know what Bikini Kill is and what they stand for. I know more Le Tigre, Hannah’s other band, because of my husband, who loves Le Tigre. And even though I debated not going all day because I felt like shit and was still AHEM coughing, I decided, I had made it all this way and my friend bought my ticket, and the double burger I ate at dinner beforehand revitalized me; along with the music conversation I was having with Cousin Zoomer and her friend, Zoomer Friend. Cousin Zoomer had on an embroidered sweater with Anthony Bourdain flipping the bird. Zoomer friend was dressed, pretty much, like Jane from Daria in an over-sized red wool coat, the only one of us dressed for the 30 degree wind chill. Hanging out with Zoomers is fun to me, because they make me feel like it’s gonna be OK, whatever it is, and then also, they make me cringe. Tattoos came up and when I showed them my new one and told them it’s an homage to David Lynch’s Eraserhead, Zoomer Cousin said she loved him. When I asked her what her favorite DL is she said, “all I know is the Talking Heads.” More cringe. Zoomer Friend told me she started watching Mulholland Drive (2001) late at night and got spooked by the dumpster freak; I confirmed that said freak would never be explained and that she should keep watching. He will never explain his art. That is part of the allure.

Kathleen Hannah got on stage in a dress she told us she bought on sale and sewed a tube top to. The guitarist was in a banana yellow jump suit; the bassist in a black sequined dress; the drummer wore a short short, cotton floral dress and bright pink hair, she and Hannah switched between lead vocals, Hannah would switch to bass on these songs; and she screamed, her dress riding up, her female rage running down my throat. I didn’t care that I didn’t know the songs. It was great to be there, to hear Hannah talk about her sister, who is apparently a crazy conservative that was assaulted a lot as a teen and woman. She stole “Suck My Left One” from her sister and hearing Hannah and the band scream SUCK MY LEFT ONE made me feel right at home. Hannah talked about rekindling with her mom and supporting anyone who wants to stop talking to their piece of shit dad, because there are many of us. I did a lot of yelling at this point, cracking up Zoomer Cousin and Zoomer Friend. I took a few pictures for documentation’s sake but they are all blurry and make us look further from the stage than we were.

I never encounter men being creepy to me in public, or in private, which of course makes me wonder WHY NOT ME? Apparently every man that passed my friend and the Zoomers caressed their entire backs with a full palm, as they said, “excuuuuuse me.” Just as Hannah was talking about being a woman, needing to band together to fight right wing mother fuckers, to take up space as women, to yell, to be the queen of the neighborhood, because rights are being taken away, and we can fight it. Again: there were men there, one of them lighting up a good old fashioned joint and his friend declining it. I am unsure, reader, still, as to why these guys were there. I guess you can be a fan of something and still not know what that something means, and walk through a crowd of women gathering to see a landmark feminist punk band live, reunited, and touch every woman’s body in that crowd and have every single fucking thing be lost on you. I will never understand men. I don’t care for their bullshit. Show up, be an ally, shut your mouth, keep your hands to your fucking self, and listen.

Because I already admitted to being a bad woman I can tell you that almost every song they played sounded the same to me. They were short and sweet and Hannah was chatty and lovely. I got lost in the bass and the stoic face she made. That grunge, thick, fuzz bass specific to the riot grrrl sound, that Seattle sound (you know the one), is my favorite sound. I contemplated changing my answer from “the piano is my favorite instrument because it is percussive and melodic” to “the bass is my favorite instrument because it is percussive and melodic.” I love the way the sound between the strings fills in and becomes a part of the instrument, the song, itself. I love the bass.

It was a great show and I’m glad I went. I did not buy a t-shirt because I’m not a poser. I wouldn’t feel comfortable sporting a band t-shirt from a band I don’t know. But I’ll see the show. I’ll show up and I’ll shut my mouth.

At times being there felt performative. Was I there for the history? To honor it? Or to see history move around a room and entertain it? To just? be there? Would it feel that way if I knew the band? Would it feel that way if it wasn’t a landmark feminist punk band? Would it feel that way if it was a band made up of all men? That I didn’t know? Something about gender goes here. I’m not sure what it is. Does it go against my feminism to say that remarking about an all women band does the a disservice? Shouldn’t we love them no matter their gender? Isn’t the point of gender equity not having to mention that Bikini Kill is a band that happens to contain all women? Because that’s the point of their existence? Or is ignoring that going against the point of Bikini Kill? Or are we all here because Bikini Kill did it first? (Oy. The Raincoats did it first. And I’m pretty sure Hannah knows that too. This woman knows her shit.) What’s going on here? The feminist lens has smeared my view!

I had a good time, did not lose my hearing, and I blog for free on the Internet. Thanks for reading!