Best Gigs The Rockbrat’s Seen ? Bikini Kill (1996)

The great Kathleen Hanna

Who: Bikini Kill  When: Annandale Hotel, Sydney, January 17, 1996

Bikini Kill’s first night of an Annandale double was not your average ‘o/s touring band going through the motions type deal’. This was an event, to be sure – exactly what an ‘underground’ or ‘punk’ show used to feel like, before such phraseology became property of the corporate state. Bikini Kill’s Australian tour was barely given lip service by the hipsters at Triple J, despite their reputation as one of the most controversial, influential and original indie outfits of modern times. Rancid, Green Day and other such puke were given the hard sell all summer long while the band that spawned Riot Grrrl, led by the woman who coined the statement ‘smells like teen spirit’ (apparently   she graffitied it all over Kurt Cobain’ s apartment wall) was routinely shunned. This did not deter an ardent swarm of admirers from gathering to witness a real alternative phenomenon strut its stuff. After a couple of sterling support sets from the ever-improving SPDFGH and the tempting tones of Phallic Shift, respectively, Bikini Kill showed up and bashed out an impressive repertoire of femme punk anthems, as well as their unique and eccentric brand of  ‘mini-songs’, notably the sublime ‘Rah Rah Replica’ (ably yelled by drummer Tobi Vail) and the more ferocious ‘In Accordance To Natural Law’, in which Kathleen Hanna nails down said law quite forcefully.  ‘New Radio’ (recorded with undefeated rock heavyweight champion, Joan Jett, at the production helm) and ‘Rebel Girl’ were warmly and knowingly received – a sign that, even with zilch airplay, good music can still find an audience. ‘ Strawberry Julius’ scored maximum punk rock points with most punters as well.  Guess it wasn’t considered for airplay on the national youth network as it only came out on seven inch black plastic. After an all too brief rendition of the riotous ‘Carnival’, Bikini Kill closed a memorable evening with ‘Suck My Left One’. An audience member was conscripted from the front of the stage to duet with Kathleen and performed admirably. Too often painted as dour feminists and little else, Bikini Kill arc, in fact, a lot of fun: their off beat lyrics, versatile musicianship and crazed fashion sense (not to mention their legitimate messages) sees them doing their own thing in the face of facelessness. (originally published in Vicious Kitten fanzine in 1996)

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