“Life in Julie Ruins”
I had the pleasure of seeing The Julie Ruin perform at the Roxy in Los Angeles on October 15, 2016 at their sold out concert.
There was a cathartic, confessional aspect to the show that made it particularly unique and special. Kathleen Hanna’s mother was evidently present in the audience. Perhaps because of this, Kathleen referenced a number of deeply personal topics, including the destructive and negative impact of her “asshole” abusive father, the resiliency and strength she gained from her mother, the healing power of having gone to therapy, as well as empowerment that comes from avoiding co-dependent personal relationships. The receptiveness of the audience to these narratives, particularly amongst young female fans, was palpable and it was quite evident what a positive role model Kathleen is (and has) been for people of all genders, sexual orientations and ages. Although an overly used, clichéd term, the word “icon” is justifiably relevant when talking about Kathleen and her enduring influence.
There was also some lively banter between Kenny and Kathleen, ranging from topics such as Kenny’s disclosure about purchasing a “My So Called Life” prop jacket on eBay for his partner to his learning to play Supertramp songs on piano at the young age of 6. The overall tone of the performance was, nevertheless, quite “serious”, with each member giving a level of concerted focus that made it clear that they weren’t messing around. If there was one thing I would have liked to have seen, that would have been an expression of “fun” and excitement amongst all members of the band. Aside from Kenny and Kathleen, the other members rarely smiled and it would have provided a clearer indication that they were having a good time. However, it was possible that their serious musicianship, focus and concentration precluded such levity. Admittedly, this was the second of their two sold-out shows at the Roxy, so it is likely that there was a degree of exhaustion that might not have been evident on their first night of performing. This is a small critique to what was otherwise an amazing show.
Carmine Covelli’s drumming was solid and unrelenting. Kathi Wilcox’ bass playing skills were stellar. Kenny provided some much needed levity with his synth and keyboard playing. Kathleen’s stage presence, energy and dancing did not disappoint.
Highlights of the show included the band’s performance of “Rather Not”, “Mr. So and So,” “Record Breaker,” and “Let Me Go” off of their very excellent “Hit Reset” album (that was released in July of this year). And, of course, hearing them perform Bikini Kill’s anthemic “Rebel Girl” during the encore was an experience that I will never forget.
Although I’ve been a fan of the “Riot Grrrl” music scene since the mid-90’s (“For Tammy Rae” off of Bikini Kill’s 1993 “Pussy Whipped” album is still one of my favorite songs of all time), this was my first time seeing punk rock and feminist icon Kathleen Hanna in person and I was not disappointed.
For those who haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend the very insightful documentary about Hannah entitled “The Punk Singer” from 2013.
I also had the pleasure of briefly meeting the band before the show and was honored to have gotten my records autographed by all the members of the band.
For more information about the Julie Ruin, check out www.thejulieruin.com.
Inner Edge Music