The Julie Ruin updates the Riot Grrrl sound
by Blaine Ewig
“We played this stage sixteen years ago, facing the other direction,” so proclaimed Evergreen alumnus Kathleen Hanna Friday night at the kickoff to the Olympia Film Festival at the Capitol Theater, on Nov. 8. She was speaking about her and bandmate Kathi Wilcox’s time in Bikini Kill, a local, influential punk band from the ’90s who put an emphasis on female empowerment. The kind of music they played would later be labeled “Riot Grrrl.” Often times, they would perform facing away from disrespectful audiences who didn’t take kindly their unapologetically feminist messages.
On Friday, however, Hanna and Wilcox performed with their new project The Julie Ruin. They faced the audience in what was a celebration of new times. The group played danceable, synth-driven tunes while Hanna’s sharp vocals and precise lyrics punched through. Between songs, Hanna explained that many of the songs were written in her Olympia apartment as part of a solo project called Julie Ruin.
For the most part, the show was lively and spirited. Hanna’s exuberant dance moves reflected the spirit of the music being played. The energy was taken down a notch when they performed a cover of Le Tigre’s “Eau D’Bedroom Dancing”, and immediately turned up again when it was followed with “Oh Come On.” Their album’s title track “Run Fast” stood out as a crowd favorite, and when Hanna sang lyrics like “we smoked pin joints under fluorescent lights/and wore shorts at the beach just to hide our thighs”, it sounded like the nostalgic anthem of angsty teenage girls.
Unlike Bikini Kill, The Julie Ruin isn’t aiming for any kind of grrrl revolution. With a less aggressive approach, it’s easy to see that they have matured. However, the third-wave feminist ideals and messages of the Riot Grrrl movement still run in the undercurrent of many of The Julie Ruin’s songs. While some of the content and style may be hard for unfamiliar listeners to grasp, the band’s sound has gained a more distinct pop edge.
The notions and styles that Bikini Kill brought to the limelight still resonate with people, and this was easy to see by looking at the crowd; new, young fans mixed and mingled with those who were involved with the Riot Grrrl movement itself. The overall feeling was very sentimental, leaving one overall idea: you can take the girl out of the riot, but you can’t take the riot out of the girl.