Bikini Kill's Kathi Wilcox, the Lady Gaga experience, a soul troubadour, and the demise of a local punk band
"In hindsight, probably there were some good things that came out of [the media attention], because I've met a lot of girls who've been like, oh I heard about your band through an article in Newsweek. So as much as it bothered us to be misrepresented, I understand now that a lot of positive probably came out of it for other people."
One project that came after BK was Julie Ruin, Hanna's pre-Le Tigre lo-fi solo project for which she released just one full-length album, recorded in her bathroom. In 2011, she resurrected that project with Wilcox in Brooklyn, along with guitarist Sara Landau, keyboardist Kenny Mellman, and drummer Carmine Covelli. The new Julie Ruin record will see release in the spring, and the band will likely be touring this summer.
Lastly, we talked about bands that were influenced by Bikini Kill's positive feminist agenda. There were the somewhat obvious, more linear answers such as contemporaries Sleater-Kinney and the Gossip, and a surprising one.
"The only thing I can think of is kind of ridiculous, but Lady Gaga. She's obviously not influenced by us at all, right?...But I was reading an article about her that she's offering counseling to her fans on her next tour. I have no idea how that's going to work. But I was like, she must be having that dynamic because she's so queer-positive and got a lot of people coming to her shows that are working through issues and coming against the bullshit of society. That seems like a parallel of what we went through. I was like, we should have had a counselor with us! Of course, that was Kathleen."
Speaking of Lady Gaga, I found myself at her Born This Way Ball Tour show at the HP Pavilion in San Jose last week. Purely from the entertainment angle, it was eye-popping madness, a glittering frenzy of spectacle, antics, costume changes, and showmanship. A fairytale castle on the stage housed all the secrets, bursting open on command with sculpted dancers, surrounding their alien queen, alien she — Gaga.
After the lights snapped off and lasers began darting towards the crowd of costumed little monsters, Gaga rode out on a human-pony encased in a diamond-crusted, insect-creature body of armor, shielding her face and draggy blonde ponytail. From there out, there were hovering Victorian ghosts, inflatable pregnant bellies birthing dancers, human-motorcycles, floating alien heads, a rotating closet in what looked to be a teenage girl's bedroom, meat curtains, meat grinders, meat couches, guitarists in turrets, and a keyboardist in the center of a circular synth.
But beyond all that, there was Gaga herself, a perfectly gritty, makeup-smeared, loud-as-hell, pop megastar who seems like a sugared-up theater kid. She told the crowd on numerous occasions that, like her, they were born this way. And like her, they shouldn't give a fuck what people think. "Right, Black Jesus?" she asked her dancer, Black Jesus. "And no fucks were given."
At one point she told all to check their phones, and called up a random audience member. The spotlights found a 42-year-old mother of twins. Gaga gifted her an inspirational piano ballad, invited her backstage for a shot of whiskey, then said she'd (along with a corporate cell phone sponsor) be donating $5,000 to a local, LGBTQ-friendly homeless shelter because she'd picked up the call.
Clad in a Gaultierish yellow beekeeper costume, she reminded, "tonight is about individuality, uniqueness, and acceptance!" Ungodly screams. "I am not a woman, I am not a man, I am...you!" The lights rose to show a thousand beaming faces.
I'm no cynic. Despite the overwrought theatrics and pomp, I can get with the message. She's Madonna for the everywoman.