By Gilchrist Green, Music Editor
After beginning to put her battle with Lyme disease behind her, feminist punk queen Kathleen Hanna is back on tour as the front-woman for her new band the Julie Ruin, and she’s angry, honest and powerful as ever. Best known for her ‘90s punk band Bikini Kill and her starring role in the 2013 documentary The Punk Singer, Hanna’s radical and rebellious voice has been broadcasting around the world for decades. Now at age 48, she is tired — but even that won’t stop her from fighting.
The Julie Ruin’s concert at Irving Plaza this past Thursday, Nov. 10, was angry. Angry about Trump, angry about the state of America, angry about feeling powerless and without a voice. During those two hours, Hanna’s performance gave everyone voice — a voice capable of screaming, shouting and being heard. The show was about being mad and sad and scared, but it was also about being together with everyone in that room and standing up to fight because, like the band expressed, “at the soul of America, there is a beautiful thing.”
As Hanna walked onto the stage with electric eye shadow, a leotard-like ensemble glittering with gems and a bun bouncing atop her head, she immediately turned into her 20-year-old self. She danced with all limbs flailing like a little girl twirling through a field of flowers, but her songs’ messages came from a place of calculated aggression and double standards. Her lyrics at first were masked by the sweet, childlike pitch of her voice, but this facade fades away as the choruses hit the crowd in the face with their words of empowerment and revolt.
This show proved all over again that Hanna has something to say. She has always had something to say. And she’s not afraid to say it.
Straying from Hanna’s riot grrrl roots in terms of sound, the Julie Ruin’s songs from their 2016 album “Hit Reset” were injected with the electrified sound of a synth and vibrating, echoing vocals. The band’s best songs were the ones that Hanna seemed to sing with an undeniable passion.
“Time Is Up” pulsed with a deep, funky groove. It was bubbly and energetic, emulating the lyrics “my underwater disco” and bringing them to life. No matter how danceable the song was, however, it acted as a vessel for her fury, as even before it began Hanna announced that the verses were about how awesome she was and that the choruses were about Him — Trump.
The new album’s title track “Hit Reset” broke whatever barrier was left between Hanna and the audience, as it spoke bluntly about her relationship with her abusive dad and choosing to no longer be in his life. Hanna proudly stood on stage, empowering herself and every woman in the audience as she spit out the lyrics “little girl” in a way so fiercely derogatory that it took back it’s once authoritative dominance and fueled it back into her femme power.
The show ended with the Julie Ruin’s cover of Hanna’s song “Rebel Girl,” and it was angry like nothing else had been. The audience oozed with energy, the floor sprang up and down and fists shook charged with the want and the need to fight for their rights.
The night was emotional. It was political. And it was healing. It was not about hitting reset on the current state of the world but about coming together, fighting and changing it. Kathleen Hanna is changing it through punk.