I hitched a ride with a fellow backpacker to Olympia
Bikini Kill changed my life. Seriously, it/they/you did. I first
heard Bikini Kill in late 1992 on public radio in Adelaide, Australia.
I had finished university exams the day before and I was basking in
the freedom of a study-less existence. The on-air announcer played
Rebel Girl, and it hit the spot. That Christmas I received a copy of
Pussy Whipped and I played it extensively, both for my own edification
and my friends’. Surprisingly, a number of my friends – who weren’t
as interested in punk rock as I was – also liked the record. Blood
One still ranks as one of my favourite album-opening tracks. Hearing
Bikini Kill led me to other Kill Rock Stars releases, and K Records –
an interest that remains almost 20 years later (both of my hoodies are
KRS, plus a couple of well-worn t-shirts).
In 1994 I travelled through the United States, making a point of
heading to the Pacific North-West to indulge my interest in the
Olympia punk rock scene (I’d long wised up to where the so-called
Seattle sound took its artistic and ideological cues). I read a
listing in a free weekly saying that Bikini Kill was playing in
Olympia – excited to the point of mania, I hitched a ride with a
fellow backpacker to Olympia, only to discover that there was no
Bikini Kill show. After ringing the KRS offices (“there’s some guy on
the phone, with like a wierd accent, who wants to know about a Bikini
Kill show”), I hung around to see a few other bands (including Kicking
Giant) and made it my quest to see Bikini Kill somewhere on the US
tour the band had just undertaken.
Discovering that Bikini Kill was playing in Washington DC around the
time I was expecting to be in that part of the country, I made a point
of orchestrating my travel plans to get there in time. By this stage
I’d hooked up with a university frend of mine (whose interests ran
more to the high end of visual arts, but who was willing to head along
to a punk show – and good on him for being so broad-minded) and we
walked from the hostel to the Black Cat to see the show. That show –
which sold out an hour after we got there – still ranks as my
favourite live show, ever. The line-up – Slant 6, Team Dresch and
Bikini Kill – was brilliant. The sense of community in the audience
was palpable (and the jukebox wasn’t too band either!). I still have
the diary entry I composed the next day, and it still resonates all
these years later.
Later on I saw Bikini Kill play a festival show in Adelaide (the first
ever live review I wrote – it was published on a fan site run out of a
college in New York, probably no long defunct), and a show in Canberra
during my brief tenure there. I actually stood next to Kathleen while
getting a beer before the show and had one of those ‘fuck, I don’t
know what to say’ moments and stood there awkwardly – and have
regretted not conveying my appreciation ever since.
A few years ago I saw a band in Melbourne (where I now live) play a
cover of Rebel Girl, and it was a quality moment. A few weeks ago I
had the opportunity of programming an hour’s music at 3am on Melbourne
public radio – the first song I played was Blood One.