It wasn’t at this particular Bikini Kill show in Fargo, but at an earlier one — on 9/21/99 at Exit 99 — that I had my most distinct personal experience with Kathleen Hanna. I was your average insecure high school sophomore finding himself in DIY rock and I’d ventured out to see my friend Heather’s favorite band. I was a fan as well and was very excited for the show. Made my way to the front of the crowd even. Which, at the time I lacked the wisdom to know, was not exactly kosher at a Bikini Kill show. The show gets going and is totally ruling. I’m feeling it. Uuuuntil one of Hanna’s pro-grrrl rants turned anti-boy. She singles wimpy little me out in the crowd with a “No BOY’S in the front row!” and a sneer, punctuating it by taking gum outta her mouth and throwing it at me.
Wow. Humiliating. I was paralyzed. Didn’t know what to do. So I just stood there. Inert. Next song starts. Spotlight slooowly dissipates and I fade into the crowd over the course of the song. Listened to the rest of the show in the back of the crowd, sitting against the wall feeling like a total goober.
I kinda resented Hanna for many years till recently. Dismissed her music as the by-product of a self-important grandstander. Which isn’t fair. Her art was political in nature and empowering to a lot of people, which is pretty cool. It’s just that my enjoyment of her work was tainted by a bad memory of being disempowered. It was watching her performative monologue describing her role in the origin of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in 1990 recently that made me revisit her work and appreciate it from a more objective perspective again. A special, and oft-overlooked, one is her Julie Ruin album. What a record.
(image via lunchyprices)