Melbourne Review Wrap: Bikini Kill; Kronos Quartet

This series of shows centered around Melbourne includes the return of a long-missed band and string quartet that shatters all expectations.

Bikini Kill ★★★★
The Forum, March 7th

In 2023, American riot grrl pioneers Bikini Kill still have plenty to fret about. violations of reproductive rights. Systematic discrimination against trans people. The removal of black history from school curricula. “Every day when I wake up I feel like I’m on a bloody rollercoaster ride,” frontwoman Kathleen Hanna confessed before Tuesday night’s audience at The Forum. For all her anger, Bikini Kill’s first Australian tour in over 25 years was a happy occasion.

Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna performs at The Forum in Melbourne on March 7th.

Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna performs at The Forum in Melbourne on March 7th.Credit:Rick Clifford

The show almost didn’t happen as drummer Tobi Vail was out of action. Tropical F—Storm’s Lauren Hammel provided a valiant last-minute replacement, joining Hanna, founding bassist Kathi Wilcox and touring guitarist Sara Landeau (of The Julie Ruin), with crew members contributing additional guitar and vocals. Aside from the abridged setlist, no one could fault the generosity of the performances, starting with Hanna’s boastful delivery of the opening lines carnivalto crewman Ab’s home-spun rendition of Only for. A single-song encore of the 1992 hit rebel girl ended the night on a high note.

Bikini Kill, an all-ages gig, drew a mixed crowd: sleepy 8-year-olds chasing moms with undercuts; Zoomer in ’90s revival fishnet stockings, shoulder to shoulder with dreadlocks aging grunger; Mohawks and frayed gray bobs. The audience’s gratitude, as well as that of the band, was palpable, with Hanna’s chatty interludes creating a sense of community as much as the riotous bopps.

Bikini Kill returns to Australia for the first time in 25 years.

Bikini Kill returns to Australia for the first time in 25 years.Credit:Rick Clifford

From the misogyny of the ’90s punk scene to gratitude journals to feminist porn, Hanna’s spirit – and that of the imperfectly reunited band more broadly – is perhaps best embodied in her plea for viewers to support their local punk and indie scenes . “There’s some fucking cool shit in there,” she teased. “Do something better than us. You absolutely can do it.”
Reviewed by Laura Elizabeth Woollett

Kronos Quartet ★★★★
Hamer Hall, March 7th

Celebrating half a century of fearlessly redefining the image of the string quartet, the Kronos Quartet have returned to Australia, still with a musical mission even as they have achieved iconic status as an old rock band. Melbourne Review Wrap: Bikini Kill; Kronos Quartet

Jaclyn Diaz

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