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The Feeding of the 5000: Bikini Kill, Brixton Academy, London, 10 June 2019

Review by Kris Smith

Won’t fit your definitions
Won’t fit into your dumb plan
Not in to win the majority
Won’t meet your demands

I want to say something: about a sold-out gig, about a band I’d never seen before, about a scene, reunions, possibilities. Some of it will probably State The Obvious (which I’ll keep as brief as possible) and the rest will be thinking out loud. Anyone who attended the two Bikini Kill gigs in Brixton on 10th & 11th June will have their own narrative and I’ll state for the record here that I am a cisgender white male and your.experience.may.vary. (Write your own review! Get in touch with Loud Women if you’d like to publish it here.) While we’re on the subject of disclosure regarding the gaze I might also admit that I mostly identify as straight although I’ve been given the queer-theory explanation of why I shouldn’t (not limited to a lifetime’s experience of homophobia) but even from my thus-limited perspective I’ll assert that you don’t have to be a womxn to find a crowd of men a deeply unsafe space. What a huge fucking treat then, to attend a sold out gig at a 5000-capacity venue in a major city with a womxn-majority audience, a demographic far from usual even at the most DIY of gigs, and feel none of the usual queasiness or threat. More of this sort of thing, and thank you.

I miss the opener Child’s Pose (promising myself to catch them another time) who sound great on bandcamp and feature members of Dregs and Woolf (I also miss Tuesday night entirely and therefore the other openers The Tuts but tbf I’ve seen and eulogised them before).

(c) Keira Anee - Bikini Kill in London, 10 June 2019
photo (c) Keira Anee Photography

Big Joanie are next and are the perfect support band, bringing as they do something completely different from the main attraction. I haven’t seen Big Joanie for far too long; they have Estella on bass now, Niadzi from Screaming Toenail on keyboards, and a successful album of songs behind them. They sound tight, look super-stylish and perform an efficient set, extremely well received.

Without much delay, Bikini Kill are on stage, and songs come sick and vast. Double Dare Ya, Feels Blind, Carnival, Suck My Left One from the first EP; Jigsaw Youth, This Is Not A Test, Don’t Need You, Resist Psychic Death, Rebel Girl from the split LP; Alien She, Sugar, Hamster Baby, For Tammy Rae from Pussy Whipped; New Radio and In Accordance To Natural Law from the singles; No Backrub and For Only from Reject All American (not in sequence, and others no doubt missing from a 90 minutes-or-so setlist: I didn’t take notes).

photo (c) Keira Anee Photography

The sound is pummelingly effective, the songs aural brickbats. At times the hard contours of guitar are somewhat lost in the huge proscenium arches of the old Astoria theatre, the bass an over-reverbed squall, but that aside it’s a tight punk rock gig; lyrical communication is clear and if you do miss the point of the songs there are handy preludes from Kathleen and Tobi.

(this blurry photo was not taken by Keira Anee, just in case you were wondering)

Not cursed with a media spotlight to the extent that Kathleen was, it’s relatively easy to forget that Bikini Kill has always had More Than One Vocalist, and an incredible frontperson in Tobi Vail. (That’s to take nothing away from Kathleen, but she has her own documentary after all and gets all the mentions; I’m adding some balance.) Alternately funny, humble, razorsharp-articulate and somehow ridiculously, unattainably cool in a uniquely self-deprecating manner, Tobi brings the theory, cites the herstory, breaks the fourth wall, and credits everyone including the UK riot grrrl/DIY punk scene then and now, a good proportion of which is in the audience. At one point I’m sat between Tobi’s mum and Tobi’s bandmate’s mum and there’s a fair bit of beaming going on. Tobi Vail makes me want to form a band, and I’m already in two and really don’t have the spoons. I can’t even play the spoons – but I digress.

photo (c) Keira Anee Photography

Bikini Kill play punk DC hardcore-style. It’s strange to think, having been for so long a phenomenon, almost a myth, for generations of younger fans and musicians (it may’ve only been twenty-odd years, but the generation-generator has sped up considerably), that at the heart of this is simply a garage band. There’s very little blues in their sound, and very little pop, although the later singles and last album were certainly more produced. It’s all rough as fuck, in the best possible way: the songs break down or just stop, having made their point in 2 minutes flat. Bikini Kill could’ve been any early 80s Dischord outfit but for the third-wave feminist mission, the fierce female sexuality, and their skill for slogan-as-chorus. (That first EP set the standard: Suck My Left One, Double Dare Ya; instant classics, memorable and singable, and equally perfect for a placard.)

Punk reunions. At this point it’d be easier to list the bands who haven’t reformed, although tbf some bands just plain keep-on-going. Probably our nearest equivalent in cultural importance was the Sex Pistols; when they reformed in the 90s it would have been churlish to deny them their right to reclaim their legacy, tell their own story, fill venues, get paid. Unfortunately at the time the UK was in the throes of post-peak Britpop and a band that started out playing dive bars to a small tribe of freaks, genuinely upsetting the establishment while getting physically attacked by ‘patriots’, had somehow become a Great British Rock Band, a Day Out For The Lads. They went away as one thing, came back as something completely different. Bikini Kill, in contrast, are still not part of any canon, their music hasn’t been anthologised or reissued by major labels over the last few decades (in fact they run their own record label, control their own archive), and they represent the same principles as they always did. The Pistols meant nothing by the time they reformed; Bikini Kill arguably mean far more now than ever.

photo (c) Keira Anee Photography

How many times did Bikini Kill play the UK? There was the Huggy Bear tour in ‘93, and a short final tour in ’96; was that it, can this really be only their third visit? In 2019 they’ve played just 6 gigs in 3 cities, two of them here in London. In the 90s they played the same kind of pub back rooms many of us still play, so where did their five thousand-plus crowd come from? A small slice of media coverage but a huge wave of word of mouth: YouTube, blogs, and a long-overdue mushrooming of female participation over the last few years in DIY punk, indie and alternative rock. UK riot grrrl was tiny, defiantly uncommercial, short-lived. But a small wave of bands formed around the Ladyfests at the turn of the century, and various DIY scenes have kept the flame since, all influenced by riot grrrl, with everything from bands and blogs, to club nights and dissertations named after Bikini Kill songs and lyrics. More importantly, their return chimes perfectly with what the media call the #metoo generation, in a socio-political context of right-wing backlash simultaneously forcing a refight of battles from thirty years ago, as the band themselves weren’t slow to point out on stage.

This gig didn’t feel like a band cashing in, collecting plaudits, resting on laurels, or taking anything for granted. The politics remain intact. Not just a party, this was a call to arms. A fierce statement of communal validation. Not bad for a Monday night, that.

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Bikini Kill in London, 10 June 2019

Photos by Keira Anee

Last night Keira and I (plus just about everyone we know in the DIY scene!) went to see Bikini Kill at Brixton Academy, and it was pretty fucking amazing. This is the band I completely fell in love with as a teenager – their songs were both a mirror and a hammer for a girl struggling to find her voice in the midst of a teenage cyclone of love, hate, abuse and sexual violence. I first picked up a guitar to play along with them, and they’ve been the biggest influence on all my musical doings as an adult – LOUD WOMEN would not exist without Bikini Kill, and certainly the back catalogues of most the bands I’ve been in owe a huge debt to Bikini Kill. (Possibly quite literally – last night I realised quite how many lyrics seem to have hopped straight out of Kathleen Hanna’s mouth and into my songs, oops! KH, if you’re reading this, I owe you a few pints 🙂 )

A full review is coming once I pull myself together (pretty much lost my shit during ‘Feels Blind’ and haven’t recovered since), and after I’ve been back to see them again tonight because oh my, how could I not? There are still tickets available here – come and bounce/sing/cry/celebrate with me!

Huge thanks to Kelly, the Queen Bee of DHP Family, for passes that allowed us to put our girl Keira right at the front to capture these awesome photos of the three bands.

Child’s Pose

Big Joanie

Bikini Kill

All photos (c) Keira Anee – Keira Anee Photography

Three Fierce Feminist Factions

Review by Jas Robinson (from The Baby Seals)

With the Christmas party season firmly behind us, it’s safe to say that January is a difficult month to get right. Resolutions are at risk of being broken and that person you promised yourself you’d become hasn’t yet materialised. But, you know what? Fuck that. Use these three compilation albums to reassert yourself, KonMari the hell out of your music collection, remind yourself how to say ‘no’, and make you want to start (another) band.

With a change in how we consume music, compilation albums can revive that feeling of buying a CD, rinsing the fuck out of it, listening to songs you know and finding new gems. Like: when I bought ‘Now 34’ from a shop in Sunderland just so I could listen to The Spice Girls, but then discovered Bon Jovi and Belinda Carlisle.

So, yeah, just like that, but it’s 2019, and I’m kicking off with Hell Hath No Fury Vol 2 by Hell Hath No Fury Records. El Knight has compiled 18 bangers for our aural delight. Available now from Bandcamp for £4, of which 50% of proceeds will go to Future Festival 2019, a three-dayer close to Bristol with music and performances by trans and enby artists plus practical and political workshops and more! The album compliments perfectly. Tracks selected from artists such as Wolfgirl, Gender Chores, Colour Me Wednesday, Dream Nails, Big Joanie, Charmpit are definitely at the more political end of the spectrum. Listen carefully, and use these as your inspiration for 2019, create your own manifesto and don’t take any bullshit. Turn Big Joanie’s No Scrubs up to eleven and crack open your bullet journal during Dream Nails’ DIY.

HERESY by Ankara-based community, Chaos, I Am Your Mistress (CIAYM), opens with Secondhand Underpants single ‘Your Little Bitch’. If Barbara Stanwyck started a band, this is what it would sound like. This dark and head-banging opening track is bound to annoy neighbours, so make sure to play it LOUD and LATE. The digital album is available on Bandcamp for the devilish price of €6.66. Proceeds go towards supporting women and other marginalized genders in underground music. The album also features tracks from REVULVA, Cryptic Street and Twin Pigs. It’s worth emailing the address on the BC to request the CD, because then you get two extra tracks from GUTTFULL (The Power and That’s What He Said)!

Last, but not least, get your chops around Birds Of A Feather Vol 2 by Anthrax (UK). And before you ask, no, it’s not an album of duets by Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson with Lesley Joseph on the lute. Rather, it’s of the classic punk, head-banging-greatness variety. But, it’s loud, proud and inspiring, with tracks from Zombie Met Girl, Kiss Me, Killer, Bratakus, and loads more! Such a great offering from Anthrax (uk) on Grow Your Own Records, it’s out now on Bandcamp, as a digital album or CD. Don’t forget to hold it, embrace the joy and kiss it before putting it back neatly into its jacket.

So, there you have it. There’s enough here to keep you going for a few months. Go forth, find new favourites, enjoy the tracks you know and don’t forget smash the patriarchy.”


Read more by Jaz over at Halopygian Music.

The LOUD WOMEN Top Albums of 2018

The results are in! From nearly 100 nominations for LOUD WOMEN album of 2018, Team LOUD WOMEN has whittled a Top 20 from which we present the joint Top Five Albums of 2018 because frankly we can’t and won’t choose between them. (And if you want to skip right to the music, here’s a Spotify playlist of the winners to brighten up your afternoon!)

The 2018 LOUD WOMEN album of the year is therefore shared by five artists; and if that wasn’t enough we’ve inaugurated a spanking new LOUD WOMEN People’s Vote Readers’ Choice Award chosen by LOUD WOMEN readers themselves (who are clearly better at making decisions!)

Without giving too much way at this stage let’s just say that it’s been a good year for block capitals: here goes! 

The LOUD WOMEN Top Five Albums of 2018:

Big Joanie – Sistahs

With stellar gigs performed all over the London-based DIY scene that they call home and extensive radio play on shows like BBC Music Introducing, it’s been a big year for Big Joanie. The feminist punk trio have certainly ended 2018 with a bang thanks to the acclaim that’s already been given to their debut album Sistahs…By allowing their true feelings to be at the forefront of their songwriting, the band create tracks that truly empower the listener; not only to rebel but to check their own activism, to continue growing, and to do better. [Read full review here]

GUTTFULL – Tits and Nails

“An irrepressible sense of fun runs through Tits and Nails, in spite of everything its lyrics address. GUTTFULL has created a brilliant and uncompromising summation of the trials of being ‘other’ in 2018 and they’re ready to shout down their oppressors – with wit and with groove.” [Read more from this review]

ILL – We Are ILL

They write songs which are both silly and serious, and they attack them (as well as each other) playfully. You can make a case for pretension in art, but there’s none with ILL; like so many of the best bands they seem like a gang you’d love to join, but ILL go one better and make you feel like you’d be welcome: friendly if not quite family-friendly (unless the family in question is more Addams than Partridge, perhaps). … A perfect storm of enigma, whimsy and controlled violence, and a genre-straddling state-of-the-nation address. With added bear growls. [Read more from this review]

LIINES – Stop/Start

‘Long-awaited’ might be a cliché, but in the case of LIINES‘ debut album, it’s a fitting description for a band that’s evolved steadily from fin-de-siecle Manc post-riot grrrl stalwarts Hooker: the tightest, heaviest rhythm section in DIY supports Zoe McVeigh’s emotional vocals and haiku-like songwriting, together conjuring an atmosphere of taut, claustrophobic menace like a UK postpunk time capsule. [Read more from this review]

Sink Ya Teeth – Sink Ya Teeth

A perfect ten tracks of no wave-disco electropop on a brilliant debut album from this Norwich duo. Described by The Guardian as “Thrillingly chilly, perfectly funky, no-wave straight out of early 80’s NYC…except that Sink Ya Teeth are a duo from Norwich. In a different era they’d have been all over TOTP” 4/5

The LOUD WOMEN People’s Vote Readers’ Choice Award:

The Menstrual Cramps – Free Bleedin’

The Menstrual Cramps is an anti-capitalist feminist band, therefore expect direct attacks on Tories, Neo-Nazis, big brands, business owners, famous idols who shouldn’t be idols anymore, and of course, “boyz-who-will-be-boyz”. The songs are so catchy that half of the album will get stuck in your head after giving one listen to the whole album. They produce music rapidly, though diligently. This rapidity actually shows itself in the guitars as fast riffs, playful strokes and abrupt small silences and it just sounds so good and steady. [Read more from this review]

The Top Twenty in full:

  • Big Joanie – Sistahs
  • The Breeders – All Nerve
  • Colour Me Wednesday – Counting Pennies in the Afterlife
  • Doe – Grow Into It
  • Dream Wife – Dream Wife
  • ILL – We Are ILL
  • GUTTFULL – Tits and Nails
  • Gwenno – Le Kov
  • The Menstrual Cramps – Free Bleedin’
  • Fightmilk – Not With That Attitude
  • LIINES – Stop/Start
  • Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer
  • Muncie Girls – Fixed Ideals
  • Grace Petrie – Queer As Folk
  • Screaming Females – All At Once
  • She Makes War – Brace For Impact
  • Shopping – The Official Body
  • Sink Ya Teeth – Sink Ya Teeth
  • Skinny Girl Diet – Ideal Woman
  • The Twistettes – A Strange Play

Big Joanie: Sistahs – LP review

sistahsReview by Caitlin Webb
With stellar gigs performed all over the London-based DIY scene that they call home and extensive radio play on shows like BBC Music Introducing, it’s been a big year for Big Joanie. The feminist punk trio have certainly ended 2018 with a bang thanks to the acclaim that’s already been given to their debut album Sistahs.
Opening track ‘New Year’ gradually leads listeners into the album’s core mantras of self-empowerment in the face of loss. Its sparse sound, neither overtly optimistic nor miserable, has a very raw quality to it matching the vulnerability present in vocalist Stephanie Phillips’ tone. With relatable lyrics avoiding the theatrics, it’s a pick-yourself-up kind of track to really energise you into action; in short, it’s the perfect start to a record as passionate as this.
This is followed up by the absolute banger that is leadoff single ‘Fall Asleep’, where memorable fuzzed-up riffs are paired with a crooning vocal line described by Pitchfork as “a subtle earworm”. In addition, the brilliant synth touches and clapping accompaniment that you’ll be itching to join in with prove their commitment to creativity and offbeat sounds. Rather than being constrained by the typical elements of punk, Big Joanie breathe life into them.
The influences of Sistahs are clearly eclectic both musically and lyrically, widening the scope of this record into something truly special. For instance, tracks like ‘Used to be Friends’ blend more riot-grrrl inspired clapping in the background and twanging guitars with a real sense of growth and honesty. Its lyrics are distinctly mature, tackling the harder aspects of self-care like cutting off toxic friendships with grace aided by a raw delivery.
Meanwhile, short and sweet tracks like ‘Down Down’ and ‘Tell A Lie’ flirt with gritty basslines and an atmospheric mix of delicate vocals and spoken word in a display of old-school rock power. This powerful punk energy also runs wild on ‘Token’, which calls out the reduction of women of colour to stereotypes with true pathos. While fighting spirit is still shown through the mocking style of the verses imitating a so-called ally, lines like “don’t think it really matters anyway” have a defeated quality of feeling resigned to the position of the token.
By allowing their true feelings to be at the forefront of their songwriting, the band create tracks that truly empower the listener; not only to rebel but to check their own activism, to continue growing, and to do better.

Buy Sistahs direct from Big Joanie on Bandcamp.
The band launch their album tonight at New River Studios.
bigjoanie

LOUD WOMEN Radio show episode 3 now online: feat. Stef Fi


The 3rd episode of the LOUD WOMEN radio show on WRS is now available on Mixcloud for your listening pleasure! Featuring:

  • live performance by Stef Fi / Stephanie Phillips
  • preview of Decolonise Fest
  • tracks played:
    • Belle Scar – Escalade
    • Ill – Space Dick
    • Big Joanie – Baby Rust
    • Silva – Like a Doll
    • Ms Mohammed – ‘Written in Time’

Hosted by Cassie Fox, Abby Werth and Minja Smura!

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