Bikini Kill Reunite in Los Angeles

Kayla Clancy on May 3, 2019
Bikini Kill Reunite in Los Angeles

In late April, Bikini Kill reunited at the Hollywood Palladium for their first shows in twenty-two years. The original lineup includes Kathleen Hanna (vocals), Tobi Vail (drums) and Kathi Wilcox (bass). Erica Dawn Lyle played in place of original guitarist Billy Karren.

On the second night before the band took the stage, soft, neon pink light doused the venue. The color reflected off the numerous crystal chandeliers scattered amidst the stucco ceiling; it felt like a glammed-out, punk-rock, Flintstones’ cave. 

After an opening set from the Linda Lindas—an all-female pre-teen punk band—Bikini Kill emerged from the pink haze. Kathleen Hanna danced around animatedly in a white dress with a sparkling chestplate. Kathi Wilcox picked up the bass wearing a dress completely covered in silver sparkles. Guitarist Erica Dawn Lyle donned a purple, fur hat, sunglasses, and a tunic.

Immediately, the energy heightened. The set started out with “This is Not a Test.” Lyle wailed on the guitar in a Mad Max fashion-undeniably cool, and incinerating.

The songs were quick and intense. Hanna’s vocals on “New Radio” were emotion-filled calls of raw power. On “Jigsaw Youth” her presence felt equally strong, yet also loose and fun as she moved around in a swirl of punk-rock ecstatic dancing. It felt very genuine and empowering.

A chant then took over the Palladium, “Girls to the front!” In response, Hanna glanced at the front row and informed an ecstatic crowd that this was indeed the case.

The heavy bass lines that led the way into “Feels Blind” matched the equally heavy lyrics, “We eat your hate like love.”

Between songs, Kathleen Hanna’s inner monologue took the form of stage banter—one of the best parts of the show. Her childlike exuberance and joy, in combination with a “Do not give a f*ck’ attitude” forged a next-level stream of consciousness of punk wit.

Throughout the night the band switched instruments. This usually meant Tobi Vail took the lead on the vocals, Hanna grabbed the bass, and Wilcox headed for the drum kit. Lyle hit the drums for a track too.  The change-ups set a nice mood; the band and crowd seemed to be equally enjoying themselves and feeding off each other’s energy.

“I don’t know if you guys know how much fun this is!” Hanna exclaimed as everyone cheered. “Can you imagine if I did cocaine?!” she joked. “I just drank a half a cup of coffee and I’m ready to go all night!”

On song after song Bikini Kill’s radical feminism proved to be alive and well. ‘”Demirep” and “Reject All American” slammed the status quo of political and ladylike norms (as do most Bikini Kill anthems).

As the set neared the end, Hanna remarked on how quickly the night passed. They closed it out with “Rebel Girl” and everyone in attendance seemed to join in for “Rebel Girl, you are the queen of my world!”

Bikini Kill walked off stage and the chanting continued. When they returned, Bikini Kill hit the crowd with “Double Dare Ya” and seamlessly transitioned into a high-powered “Suck My Left One.” After they came back out for a second encore, Hanna said, “This song is a lullaby. It’s for your close person”. She told the crowd to hold their close person, or think of them if they were far away. With that, ‘For Tammy Rae’ sealed the evening on a heartfelt high.