Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More freedom

So once I moved to New York, I realized I was fully West Coast, dreaming outside of the workaday world, I couldn’t find that in New York. When Kathleen had a show for Julie Ruin, her new solo project after a few years without Bikini Kill, and she needed someone to work the synthesizers, that was Johanna. I think they were in a band together in Olympia, or maybe it was Portland, and then Johanna showed some of her artwork in Kathleen’s gallery, or maybe Kathleen played a show in Johanna’s gallery, I’m not sure. I don’t remember the show that well, I mean the show in New York, I remember that the beats were interesting because they were messy, and Kathleen’s voice sounded soft in a way I hadn’t remembered, but there was a lot going on that night and so then I forgot about Julie Ruin for a while, I’m not even sure I knew there was an album.

But really I had no idea until years later that Riot Girl actually started in DC, the first time someone mentioned that I thought they’d confused Washington for Washington, everyone knew Riot Girl started in Olympia, right? But no, truly it started in DC, officially right after I left, which means that probably it started before, but maybe it was in the Virginia suburbs and I was on the other side in Maryland, although there was that connection to Positive Force, which was the group that put on those Fugazi shows where Ellen and I would dance in the back. There was no evidence of a feminist presence then, just guys slamming into one another and people tabling for Greenpeace. By this point I was also falling apart to La Da Dee La Da Da at The Vault, dancing and passing out and dancing in the bank vault until 2 am and then if you were in the know you’d go upstairs for the unofficial after-hours where you could still buy liquor, or else I was on those dance cubes at Faze warehouse parties shaking it to People Are Still Having Sex, I don’t think I would’ve met many riot girls in these places but anyway, now we’re in New York, just after vegetable kuzu stew with tempeh and my third cup of mu tea.

So it turned out Johanna was working on a music project with Kathleen, along with Sadie Benning who became famous in the early-‘90s for the pixel vision movies she made, but this time they were making music together. And I think it was their first show, their first show took place at Dumba on freezing, snowy day in the winter of 1998, right? Or maybe it was 1999, the album says 1999 but that would be after Queeruption, which was also at Dumba, but in my head that was after this show and there was another anecdote I wanted to share, but later, but first I should figure out the order. Maybe I’ll call Scott, I haven’t talked to him in years, but I did recently leave him a message and then he emailed me back. Okay, I’ll call him again.

But the crazy thing about that show was that there was this huge line that went down the street in the snow, there had never been a show like that at Dumba. This huge crowd of riot girls, or post-riot girls, since riot girl was over or maybe it wasn’t over because there was this huge crowd, there were people who had driven from Illinois and Ohio just to see Kathleen, since it was her first official show since the end of Bikini Kill, I guess that Julie Ruin show wasn’t official and Kathleen kept saying: who are all these people? Johanna said Kathleen, there are whole websites dedicated to you, and to me it seemed that Kathleen was just pretending, but the truth is that every time you do a show, you worry that no one’s going to show up, I mean that’s what happens for me and maybe that happened for Kathleen too but at the time I just thought she was being fake. I was biased against Kathleen because I thought she was a star, I mean she was a star the way people lined up afterwards just to talk to her, women in leopard print coats with vintage dresses, clunky heels and big purses.

I never liked leopard print, but I never associated it with Riot Girl either. Although winter isn’t just the end of the year it’s the beginning of the next year, right? Gina thinks that first show was definitely in 1999, after she moved out of Dumba, or early 2000. But what was it about Kathleen Hanna, or Riot Girl, that made Gina want to make music? Gina says: I was at school, doing all this reading and writing about child abuse and feminism and the male gaze dominating film theory and patriarchy dominating everything in the world, that’s how I felt at the time I mean now that seems silly of course there are lots of other issues but at the time that’s all I could think about -- women and children are being abused -- the world around me seemed really extreme and horrible and I was studying gender role development and kids and how to create more options. I wanted to look at movies with kids and re-edit then in ways that would give them more freedom, but I realized that going to a preschool with Disney movies, and re-editing them wouldn’t change the violence, I couldn’t sit in a classroom and act like it was okay, that’s was when I discovered Riot Girl, 1997 I was a little late and I dropped out of school and I went back to my mother’s house in Boulder so depressed I couldn’t function I bought a drum set right before I left school and I put an ad out to start a band because I needed to make music, hit stuff and scream and get angry and snobby about it.

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