"I wish I had been 23 in the early 90s," I found myself saying the other day. While I am perfectly content to be living out my Terrible Twenties in the 2010's, the nineties held so much promise, economic opportunity, and affordable education.
Most importantly, those were the years of the Riot Grrrl.
The grungy, in-your-face feminism of nineties girl punk is making a comeback. St. Vincent humorously lamented her publishing company's riot grrrl name, and Boston's mayor proclaimed April 9th "Riot Grrrl Day" in honor of Bikini Kill, The Julie Ruin, and Kathleen Hanna of Le Tigre, stating: "The riot grrrl philosophy has never felt more relevant, with misogyny still rampant in many cultural spaces."
Despite all this important cultural news, the biggest and most exciting riot grrrl development still remains Sleater-Kinney rejoining forces and releasing No Cities To Love, the first album they had released since 2005. The band announced an indefinite hiatus in 2006 after playing the Lollapalooza festival, and the members formed new projects. Obviously Carrie Brownstein is the most visible with the wild success of Portlandia, her hilarious comedy project with Fred Armisen. The New Yorker's Margaret Talbot wrote an excellent article about Carrie Brownstein and the unusual circumstances that birthed Portlandia—long, in true New Yorker style, but well worth the read.
I will confess, I was not a Sleater-Kinney fan until I became familiar with Brownstein through her show. It's my favorite sketch comedy show to watch, because it makes me laugh at myself and my equally hipster-esque friends (I'm fond of Lance and Nina, especially). After all, Portland is just the Austin of the West Coast, right? But when I saw that they were coming to Stubb's, I jumped on the tickets knowing that this tour could either make or break them as "the little riot grrrl band that could."
It was storming all day that Friday, which will of course turn the packed dirt floor of Stubb's into a delightful mess of mushy footprints and slippery crushed beer cans. Despite the uncomfortable squish in my shoes, I was loving the buzz of an enthusiastic crowd of old and new fans. It was obvious that there were a lot of die-hards there as well as people who came because Carrie made them laugh and they wanted a chance to see a celebrity up close. THEESatisfaction opened, a smooth, funky hip-hop duo that purred out verses about blackness, bisexuality, and the wonders of a good slice of pizza. They have been added to my permanent Spotify rotation.
Sleater-Kinney took the stage after their sound guys tuned what seemed to be 294857 instruments for approximately 100,000 years, but it paid off. They started off with a couple solid songs from their new album, including one of my favorites, "Price Tag." Compared to their scrappy rock shows of the 90s-00s, the ladies were much cooler and sophisticated, but, as the show progressed, their wild child nature began to bubble up. Brownstein, notorious for her posturing, wind-milling, and jump kicks, clambered atop the drums and played an extended guitar solo from her perch.
One of my favorite moments from the show was the delightful folksy "Modern Girl." Brownstein starts off the tune with a bouncy verse about love and a happy relationship: "My baby loves me, I'm so happy...my whole life looked like a picture of a sunny day." The song begins to turn, however, when the aforementioned "baby" runs off with the money and leaves the protagonist "sick of this brave new world." The song is a classic crowd singalong song, and Brownstein could barely hide her grin as the volume of the crowd overtook her, even as she sang into the microphone.
When the band returned for their encore, they came out in full riot grrrl gear. Corin Tucker gave a shoutout to Planned Parenthood, who was handing out literature and recruiting volunteers at all of their shows. "Gimme equality! Gimme justice!" she chanted before breaking into "Gimme Love," another song from their new album. The energy was noticeable higher, and the women were warming up some more aggressive dance moves and classic jump kicks on stage.
All in all, this was not a show to miss. Sleater-Kinney balanced old favorites such as "Jumpers," "Modern Girl," and "Entertain" with new jams like "New Wave," "Bury Our Friends," and "No Cities to Love" perfectly. A long time lover of lady punk and grungy garage rock, this solidified my love for the reunited trio, and I look forward to seeing where they go from here.
(Not to mention, all the band members brushed right by me while I was sipping on a signature cocktail at Cheer Up Charlie's at the official after-party. Needless to say, I had to freeze like a deer in the headlights in order to restrain myself from having a truly embarrassing fangirl moment.)