Bikini Kill in Boston, 4/9/23

Seeing Bikini Kill in Boston was checking off a punk rock bucket list item for me. And it was a punk rock history lesson for my 14-year-old.


Bikini Kill formed in Olympia, WA in 1990. I could write ten thousand words about their importance in the pantheon of punk rock and how they were at the forefront of the Riot Grrl movement (drummer Tobi Vail actually coined the term). But those words have already been written elsewhere. Instead, I’ll tell you about how I almost missed the show.


Firstly, the band’s Boston visit had to be rescheduled (thanks, COVID). When the new date was announced last fall, I cuffed a pair of tickets straightaway. Despite being a fan and playing their music on my various radio shows over the years, I’d never seen them live during their initial run in the ’90s. And my youngest is a burgeoning punk fan and feminist, so here was a golden opportunity to give them a healthy dose of both, straight from a quartet of pioneers.

Here’s the problem: I bought the tickets, tucked them away in a drawer with the intention of giving them as a Christmas gift, and proceeded to forget I’d done either of those things. A Good Friday miracle came along by way of a marketing email asking if I wanted to upgrade my tickets. “What tickets? Oh, shit! I bought Bikini Kill tickets and the show is on Easter night!” See? Marketing emails aren’t all that bad. I asked my kiddo if they were up for a show on a school night. They said yes. So off to Roadrunner we went.


Bikini Kill in Boston: A Punk Rock History Lesson

Quick aside: this was my first trip to Roadrunner, and it won’t be my last. I was supposed to catch the instrumental trio Khruangbin there shortly after the venue opened last spring, but COVID got in the way. The room is large in a good way (good sight lines) and the vibe is welcoming. They even got the bathrooms right, as you’ll see below.


And Bikini Kill delivered. Kathleen Hannah‘s voice was as strong and clear as ever, and when she wasn’t using it to sing, she was telling tales in between the songs. The standout story of the night was of opening for Boston hardcore band The Freeze years ago and how the crowd was, shall we say, less than welcoming. It was a necessary reminder of how difficult it was for Bikini Kill to be a feminist punk band back in the day. The harassment, both physical and verbal, was always an issue.

Hannah dovetailed that with the current state of the United States, then proceeded to contrast that with the vibe at the show. People of all stripes, dancing and moshing to songs about body autonomy and feminism. I asked the 14-year-old what they thought on the way home from the show. “It was cool to see a band that was so important to the history of feminism.” I was going to have them review the show, but they have a big day today at their Peer Leader Student Congress, so I gave ’em a pass.


You’ll just have to settle for the pictures below.

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