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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 April 2019

Bikini Kill: Why now is the right time for the 1990s feminist punk group to reunite

The punk group are getting back together for a bunch of new shows – here we explain why it’s a good move

Bikini Kill in their 1990s heyday. Getty Images 
Bikini Kill in their 1990s heyday. Getty Images 

Riot grrrl was undoubtedly one of the music genres that defined my teenage years (due to my eclectic taste I couldn’t possibly point to only one, though).

And if this underground 1990s feminist punk movement that sprung up in Washington State – admittedly very far away from Bahrain, where I was living at the time – was defined by a band, it would be Bikini Kill.

Last year, the group – which includes singer Kathleen Hanna, drummer Tobi Vail, bassist Kathi Wilcox and guitarist Erica Dawn Lyle (who replaced Billy Karren) – released their full catalogue of music on streaming services for the first time. Earlier this year, they took it a step further and announced they’d be getting back together for the first time since 1997 for three new shows in Los Angeles and New York, starting from next month.

Then, they added two London gigs in June. No doubt, popularity depending, more will follow.

This all comes a few months after British pop group the Spice Girls also announced a reunion tour. You might not think these two points are related. They are (not least because both Bikini Kill’s Rebel Girl and the Spice Girls’ Wannabe would be included on the soundtrack of my life).

The thread that’s holding this argument together, of course, is “girl power”. Whether it’s bubbly, upbeat pop melodies or growling, distorted guitar riffs, music – or anything for that matter – that empowers females has never been more relevant. In the middle of the #MeToo era, when the arts industries are re-evaluating what exactly it means to be a woman in an increasingly less male-dominated world, the ladies who were screaming about such matters back in the early 1990s should surely have their say again two decades on.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Piers Allardyce/REX/Shutterstock (3244768a) Bikini Kill - Kathi Wilcox Bikini Kill
Bikini Kill's bassist Kathi Wilcox. Piers Allardyce / REX / Shutterstock

Courtney Love, when she heard about the Bikini Kill reunion, said the band was, and still is, a “hoax”. She said two of its members were “amateurs” (I would argue musical talent had nothing to do with the subculture, anyway).

While Love’s grunge band Hole would be another that tops my adolescent playlist, I can’t help but feel that the comments, which come from a woman who sang a song called Miss Narcissist, are not exactly in keeping with the spirit of sisterhood that surrounds us in 2019 (and, besides, she’s had beef with the group’s lead singer Hanna since 1995, when Love allegedly punched her in the face).

I could have counted on one hand the number of friends I had who also appreciated the message of female empowerment Bikini Kill were trying to get across back in the day.

They were just too far ahead of their time. But now, the mainstream is listening. Intently.

Updated: March 17, 2019 12:17 PM

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