Kathleen Hanna is an icon in underground music, art, film and politics. Born in Portland, Oregon, on November 12, 1968, Hanna first became interested in feminism around the age of nine, after her mother took her to a Solidarity Day rally in Washington D.C. where feminist author Gloria Steinem spoke. Hanna became a musician, feminist activist and punk zine writer. Hanna founded the brief but influential Riot Grrrl movement, as chronicled in the 2006 documentary Don't Need You: The Herstory of Riot Grrrl. She became the lead singer of Bikini Kill in the early- to mid-1990s, released a solo album under the pseudonym Julie Ruin in 1998, and fronted Le Tigre in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As seen in the documentary film The Punk Singer, Hanna learned she was infected with Lyme Disease, and the recovery process forced her to take a nine-year break from music. She is back with a band called the Julie Ruin and a debut album, Run Fast, which was released today. The Julie Ruin is comprised of Hanna on vocals, Sara Landeau on guitar, Kenny Mellman on keyboards, Kathi Wilcox on bass and Carmine Covelli on drums.
At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, Hanna showed that the Julie Ruin is a new beginning for her, in that the band sounds unlike her previous works. The foundations of the compositions were often propelled by the rhythm sections’ funk and rock chops, similar to Har Mar Superstar (who applauded from the audience). The songs were danceable yet sometimes as quirky as Devo. The ensemble arrangements were usually sparse until Wilcox stepped forward with her wall-of-sound surf-guitar leads, then giving the band a Bush Tetras flavor. The top and most prominent layer was Hanna’s snarly and squeaky vocals, reminiscent of the B-52’s. The Julie Ruin introduced an innovative platform for today’s indie market.
The Julie Ruin will be performing at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on October 25. In the meantime, visit the Julie Ruin (and get a free download) at http://www.thejulieruinband.com