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FFF review: The Julie Ruin

Joe Gross

Editor’s note: This article was originally published November 10, 2013

“This is for all the young feminists in the house” — Kathleen Hanna, Sunday afternoon, Orange Stage, Fun Fun Fun

For a certain generation of punks and folks whose lives were changed by punk, it is always going to be nice to see Kathleen Hanna on stage.

After a long struggle with the Lyme disease kept Hanna out of commission since the end of her last band Le Tigre in 2008, the former Bikini Kill howler slowly put together an album, “Run Fast,” with a new act called the Julie Ruin.

As chronicled in the excellent documentary “The Punk Singer,” nobody was entirely sure if Hanna was going to be up to playing shows, including Hanna. So seeing her hit the stage looks an awful lot like a triumph.

The songs split the difference between Bikini Kill’s primitive punk and Le Tigre’s electronics, sort of. Not as raw as the former, not as slicked up as the latter, the Julie Ruin really does sound like a collaboration between all five members. There’s some junk-surf guitar here, some garage rock propulsion there, and a whole lot of keyboard/organ.

Dressed in tan and black tights that looked, from a distance and kind of brilliantly, like underwear and panty hose, Hanna noted that all of the “women in music now are not wearing pants” and she wanted to join the queue, as it were.

She remains a riveting front woman and the songs worked better live than on record. But while it was interesting hearing her voice alongside keyboard player Kenny Mellman’s, too often his keyboard riffs felt slapped on top of songs that didn’t necessarily need them. But, hey, that is what collaboration is all about. Welcome back, Kathleen. We missed you.