Launching into “I Decide” off their latest record, The Julie Ruin made their hometown return with open arms from the sold out crowd. The latest from vocalist Kathleen Hanna, The Julie Ruin combine both the electropop sensibilities of Le Tigre with the political lyricism of Bikini Kill. On “I’m Done” the singer decries the bevy of internet commentators who hide behind the computer keys to spout hateful comments on the internet.
Opening the show were Harsh Crowd, a band comprised of Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls alumni. The New York quartet comprised of 14-year-olds have already played alongside major indie acts like Sharon Van Etten and Mac Demarco. Loaded with a brash approach of adolescent angst, the tracks at times show the band’s age but speak to the crowd in an almost universal sense of being young, frustrated and finding your voice to speak out about injustices. The band, coached by Caryn Havlik of sludge metal band Mortals, truly speaks to a sense of the Rock Camp’s core values of intersectionality and empowering women.
“As much as you need us, we need you tonight” an emotional Hanna welcomed with arms outstretched to the crowd. The Julie Ruin returned to NYC at Irving Plaza in support of their latest record, “Hit Reset” days after the upset of the 2016 Election. Noted for her feminist leaning politics, Hanna is considered one of the core frontwomen of the riot grrrl movement. The punk singer recalls the misogynistic dissent when touring with other male centered acts, who would dismiss the band as a novelty, while those bands themselves would only last six months. Closing out their encore with “Rebel Girl” from Bikini Kill, the band brought the mostly older audience back into 1993.
Though as I scanned the faces of the crowd, I noted the disparaging level of representation in the crowd. While some of the other journalists around me were femme people/women of color, most of the audience were undoubtedly white passing. While Hanna’s cries of “Girls to the front” in the 90s were seen as radical feminist politics, it was blind to the sense of inclusivity that modern spaces truly need. Though forming musical groups along with trans people and even men, the evident lack of women of color shows the band’s age more than anything else. Even former genderqueer bandmate JD Samson was critical of Hanna’s “Michfest” whose “women born women” policy was perceived as transphobic. The changing scope of the world may no longer regard the riot grrrl movement as its safe space, and represent an outdated ideology.
Statements from the band like “We survived the AIDS crisis, we survived the Bush era, we will survive this” felt like the brand of liberalism was less reassuring than colorblind. While they may have survived those times, history is littered with LGBT people and POC who didn’t exactly make it through these oppressive regimes. If The Julie Ruin are the old guard of gender equality, Harsh Crowd will be the ones shattering the glass ceilings in their way.
Time Is Up
A Place Called Won’t Be There
South Coast Plaza
Radical or Pro-parental
Pedestrian at Best (Courtney Barnett Cover)
Mr. So & So
Oh Come On
Rebel Girl (Bikini Kill Cover)