Joining the queue to see Bikini Kill was unlike any queue for a gig I’ve ever been in. Not only was it majority girls, which I’ve not experienced before personally, but it was by far the friendliest crowd I’ve ever been a part of.
I didn’t even experience pushing or shoving as we went in, despite the huge amount of people waiting to see Bikini Kill for their first UK gig in over 20 years.
Child’s Pose were first to the stage, full of energy and excitement they really got the crowd ready for what was to come. Big Joanie, a black feminist punk band, came next, calling people of colour to the front and talking about how much Bikini Kill inspired them to pick up instruments, making the night feel just as special for them as it was for all of us that had paid to be there.
They were both truly great choices to have warm up the audience and by the time Big Joanie had finished playing everyone was well and truly excited for Bikini Kill to take the stage.
… And take it they did! One of Kathleen Hanna’s first acts on stage was to pull up her dress to show off her royal blue tights, pulling it up again later to fully display her opinion that while getting dressed she realised she ‘looked like the cookie monster’s down stairs’! They started by playing New Radio and the audience just lost it.
From there on, it was a stream of bodies being pulled out of the crowd as people crowd surfed, which is of course against the rules now, got pressed against the barrier and one girl even seemed to have fainted. The band sounded great, not like a band that’s only fairly recently reunited after twenty years, though of course no members have slacked off of music nor activism in that time.
The Brixton O2 was a fabulous venue to choose for this gig, the beautiful architecture and statues seemed completely out of place with these incredible, confident, LOUD women which only seemed to make it all the more fitting.
A band like Bikini Kill wouldn’t have even been imaginable when the venue was built, and yet here it stood with 5000 people screaming along to lyrics of female empowerment. Powerful is the best word I can give it.
By the time the band played Carnival, their 15th song in the set and the song I was personally most excited for, they had swapped instruments around multiple times. Mistakes had been made, songs had to be started more than once and the odd dodgy note was played but if that isn’t half the brilliance of Bikini Kill I don’t know what is.
When Hanna said “This isn’t some punk-rock retro bullshit thing. I can play these songs I wrote so long ago. They still feel alive.” she was very much right and the crowd definitely felt it.
Erica Dawn Lyle, a lead guitarist that boosted Bikini Kill from a trio to a quartet played fabulously and felt every bit a perfect and original fit to the band despite being a more recent addition. As well as the addition of Lyle to boost the girl count, many of the roadies and sound techs seen about were female, only boosting the message that girls have just as much a place in punk as anyone else does, a message just as needed now as when the band started.
Hearing the Hanna and Vail talk between songs was also deeply special and the crowd seemed to hang entirely on every word said, from Hanna talking about believing in both magic and science and wishing us all a happy pride to Vail talking about learning their instruments on stage.
By the pre encore of Rebel Girl you might think the crowd and band had lost some energy and enthusiasm, but had you just arrived you would have been forgiven for thinking it was still towards the start of the gig for how insane the crowd was.
The energy didn’t lower until the final encore, For Tammy Rae, when everyone seemed to at least have a tear in their eye and not just because of the song. Just like that, Bikini Kill’s first UK gig in over 20 years was finished.
It didn’t feel very Bikini Kill to just do an ordinary review, nor did it feel like it could fully encompass the enormity of this gig, so in the photo view above, there is a printable mini zine to go alongside this review.
Instructions for the mini zine:
Print on A4 paper with no margins and follow this tutorial to fold.