Riot Act, Part 2: Bikini Kill, Terminal 5, June 1, 2019

Riot-grrl pioneers and rebel-girl revolutionaries Bikini Kill took over New York City for four sold-out reunion shows. MAGNET’s M.J. Fine (words) and Chris Sikich (photos) were there.

Night two of Bikini Kill was even more enjoyable than the first, with a more peaceful energy in the crowd and a better vantage point for Tobi Vail’s rumbling drums.

I was touched both nights by Kathleen Hanna’s emotional dedication to this band in particular, whose lyrics are in constant rotation in my head, and by Vail’s encouragement of younger artists who are doing it themselves in a very different world than the one Bikini Kill came up in. I was struck too by how few instruments and how little tuning was necessary to provide all the power needed to rock a much larger audience than the band could’ve reached 20-plus years ago.

At Terminal 5, I also appreciated Hanna’s recollection of her first Dyke March and her warbling of Black Flag’s “Rise Above” in her best Off-Off-Broadway Annie voice. Most of all, it was interesting to hear her address how her old rallying cry of “Girls to the front” is problematic when we can’t assume anyone’s gender just by looking at them.

Highlights: “This Is Not A Test,” “Don’t Need You,” ”I Hate Danger” and everything I loved in Brooklyn.

Opener Sammus, fresh off earning her doctorate, was terrific—the best I’ve seen her yet. She even made the stoic security dude nod to her bright, tight, incisive rhymes and brisk beats.