Wednesday, August 10, 2005
The Politics of Experience (for Elizabeth)
Until a couple of months ago I associated the name/icon of Kathleen Hanna with three things: as one of the key kick-starters of "riot grrrl" everything (I actually "studied" this and her lyrics in one of my Cultural Studies classes in college); hailing from the Olympia, WA-band Bikini Kill and currently fronting Le Tigre and sadly, the most persistent association with her name is the memory of hearing about her 1995 run-in with Courtney Love. Backstage at Lollapalooza, Love called Hanna "Ratface," flicked a cigarette at her, pelted her with candy, and punched her in the face-- wotta classy lassie.
These associations have changed. I used to be ignorant (I always kinda thought that Bikini Kill was way too cool for me and just over my head). I now know better.
My good friend Elizabeth took me to the Le Tigre show last night for my birthday and it was ab-soul-utely awesome (she had seen 'em twice before-- that cool girl). I now have a huge girlcrush on Kathleen Hanna. Turns out, she and Courtney do have one surprising (or, not surprising at all, depending on how you look at it) thing in common: they both were strippers in the fine state of Washington. But, fuck. Look at Courtney now. Love is one of the most pathetic characters in music (I say this with huge respect for her as a performer, "Live Through This," was a very important record for me). But, fuck. Look at Kathleen Hanna now. She seems to be in a constant state of creative productivity and political and social activism.
It was so joyful, playful, but carefully designed and totally layered. Part bo-ho performance art (they wore matching homemade dresses/pants with "Stop Bush" emblazoned on them and used megaphones to make their point), part riot grrrl punk (Hanna on guitar was a sight-- totally at home there and an inspiration as she slammed out power chords effortlessly) and...so much more.
It seems as if Hanna has found her perfect outlet for her talents and passions: make 'em dance, shake their ass and they'll listen! They'll listen to feminist philosophy and GLBT anthems and anti-suicide messages. The anti-suicide song, "Keep On Livin" ("Hold onto your pride and/ So don't let them bring you down and /Don't let them fuck you around cuz /Those are your arms that is your heart and / No no they can't tear you apart/ They can't take it away now/ This is your time this is your life and You gotta keep on...keep on livin!") might completely remind me of the fictitious Big Fun's "Teenage Suicide, Don't Do It!" ("what's yer damage, Heather?") musically and (duh) lyrically, but it still rules. It rules because it is just as effective as "Everybody Hurts," maybe more so-- now, anyway.
The show was a show. A performance full of wonderful, kinda funny, but fun choreography (at times I thought that it might be a good idea if Hanna became the new Jane Fonda: activist celebrity makes work-out video. Seriously. I think this would sell. Big.) Communist/socialist musicianship (they switched positions on most songs and played each other's instruments). And then there's Kathleen Hanna and that voice. That voice of a movement. Monotone, melodious, shrill, smooth, cute, girly, powerful-as-all-hell. And her, herself, man. She's fit, curvy, cute-- she does this little closed-smile thing that is just killer. She allows Johanna and JD to strut their stuff-- they are equally great showpeople. And JD. Wow. What complexities. A great character, a fantastically weird, consistent voice. Johanna is just this Amazonian presence commanding the stage with her guitar. Yowww.
But, it's Hanna who had me mesmerized. A total DIY inspiration. Today I feel so similarly to how I felt after I saw Patti Smith for the first time (with my friend Jim at First Ave. the day we found out that First Ave. might close forever, but that's another yarn). I felt all inspired and fired up and in total awe of these supremely talented women. It's the politics, the uniquely powerful voices, the sensuality of their stage presence. [ps Hanna has this heart tattoo on her upper right arm--like, "heart on her sleeve"?! fuckingrockawesome.] [pps she completely has "Twin Peaks" beauty; like a combo of Lara Flynn Boyle and Sherilyn Fenn. She has the dark hair, blue eyes and light skin. Irish Exotic. A perfect David Lynch ingenue.]
Ultimately, it's pure hopefulness. These chicks keep on keepin' on, even with Bush taking his 319th day of vacation in Crawford, Tex. while the number of dead Americans approaches 2,000 in Iraq and the 13,877 wounded come home warped and defeated. As defeating as that is, we have to hold hope for positive change, because what hell else are you going to do?