By the time we found a good spot at the Sinclair, the Screaming Females were almost done with their set. A three piece of formidable strength – Jarrett Dougherty is relentless on drums, King Mike handles the bass with ease and Marissa Paternoster delivers a ferocious amount of energy as lead singer and guitarist. This band is wicked loud, and they’re good. I was glad to catch them playing. Paternoster delivered an aggressive blistering guitar lead on her gold top Gibson on Boyfriend.
Screaming Females’ Blistering Sound
Paternoster ripped the mic from the stand and began pummeling the guitar into submission. Her vocals lost, she tried tracing the mic’s line as Dougherty and Mike kept the beat, but finally she just played lead. A live recording in Chicago done right before The Julie Ruin tour looks promising. I’ll bet it’s worth a listen.
Kathleen Hanna Is Back In Full Force With The Julie RuinAs The Julie Ruin took their places on stage Kenny Mellman flubbed through a version of the Mary Tyler Moore theme on keys. Kathleen Hanna proclaimed she was feeling sexy in her Norma-Rae-Flash-Dance-Cindy-Crawford-1990’s-DKNY denim onesy. She twirled, showing it off.
First up was V.G.I. and Hanna’s singing reminds me of a young Patti Smith. The call and answer vocals between Hanna and Mellman crest into a crescendo. Kathi Wilcox plays a bad ass bass, Carmine Covelli beat the shit out of the drums and Sara Landeau leads the way on guitar. They were pumping from the get-go. Hanna, it seemed, was working up a frenzy to prove there’s no need for concern – she’s in good form.
Before coming back as The Julie Ruin, Hanna wasn’t sure she’d live, never mind perform. For six years she battled with an undiagnosed bout of Lyme disease. Finally, in 2010 she found out what was wrong. Too late to cure it, she at least found treatment. The Punk Singer (2013), a documentary about her and the 1990’s feminist Riot Grrl movement, tells the story in depth.
Lucky for us, Hanna is back on the road, playing sold out shows. No moshing and no shoving, with just enough room to move around. As The Julie Ruin set up for the next song, Hanna told us she has eaten at The Sinclair. Mellman said they had “Disco Gravy,” following which Hanna gave us a side view, sticking out her belly, “I know, adorable,” she remarked. Yes, indeed, adorbs.
A nice DIY touch was draping different colored twinkle lights over the equipment. It lent a sense of punk fun and color as the lights flashed to the beat. Kathi Wicox, the bass player through many band projects, including the seminal Bikini Kill, looked fabulous. Wearing an orangey-red sleeveless top (at this point it’s almost a signature piece), she was so cool and flawless that I just had to read it as a spoof on Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love. Can I just say that the spoof was Simply Irresistible.
Hanna bantered with the audience about the new movie Noah since some of the band schlepped out to see it. They broke into that Christian Noah camp song “The animals, they came in, they came in by twosy-twosy.” And offered up their extra tickets for the price of a question answered. Hanna joked that thinking up a trivia question while being entertaining and connecting with the audience was no problem – except that she’d rather sing about euthanasia, and Katy Perry songs at that.
There was no call for girls to the front like in the Riot Grrl days, but actual dancing did occur, which these days seems a rarity. Hanna bent down to an audience member and reported that someone liked her record. To which she said thanks, but noted they wouldn’t be doing any Bikini Kill songs. She added if anyone started a Bikini Kill cover band, they’d be sure to check them out.
She posed the trivia question, and declared it was a yes or no question. Did Noah bring Insects? The audience yelled yeses and no’s from every quarter. Then Hanna announced that the proper answer was no. Band Camp girls next to me discussed the question, the movie and the bible. Hanna said she was disappointed Noah didn’t take insects and that she preferred Water World. As a child she’d tie her “bears and shit together.” Her neighbors would eye her, but she thought to herself, just you wait, you’ll wish you were so organized. I’m ready for the apocalypse. After which they ripped into “Just My Type.”
Hanna told us how The Julie Ruin started out as a solo project fifteen years ago. At the time she didn’t see how she would ever get to perform live, so she was pleased to find her band. They were the _best she said, and they learned everything really quickly.
After dancing all night, Hanna complained her Capezio Character shoes kept slipping, but she’d continue to try to dance. After all what was one to wear with a leotard except Character shoes?
A request from the audience had them playing Apartment # 5 and when Hanna sang the lyric “I don’t give a fuck what you think anyway” the audience went nuts. Hanna claimed that everything she writes is about co-dependency. Co-dependency or euthanasia. Weird, she said. She told a story of going to the bookstore with a friend and buying co-dependency books. One for her, and one for her husband. Her friend, upon realizing what co-dependency was, said “Yeah, fuck that, I’m not co-dependent.” Hanna really liked that about her friend and broke into “Girls Like Us.”
As we watched The Julie Ruin, my friend pointed out that the Screaming Females were standing right behind us. I turned and looked and smiled but was too shy to ask for a picture or interview. After the fun “Girls Like Us,” Hanna started to sing “Tomorrow,” from the musical Annie. Unexpectedly, the audience began to sing along. Anticipation soared as Hanna got closer to the high note. Just shy of it she apologized and said she couldn’t afford to blow out her voice.
I think it was on “Lookout” that an enthusiastic audience member jumped up on stage and was escorted off. Hanna gulped down a second container of water, and jokingly said, “Chug, chug, chug, bet I can drink this whole thing,” as if it were back-in-the-days of overindulgence.
When they came back for an encore, Hanna posed another question.
What if your best girlfriend and a hot guy ask you to the same dance, what do you do?
A) Go with girlfriend
B) Go with girlfriend but only dance with hot guy
C) Ditch girlfriend, go with hot guy
D) Entertain both.
The answer according to The Julie Ruin is go with both. Especially since last song is Le Tigre’s Hot Topic.
The Julie Ruin’s Debut Album Run Fast (2013) is available now.
Screaming Females newest effort is the EP Chalk Tape (2013).
Catch them on tour.