And a few boys, too. When riot grrrl pioneers Bikini Kill played their first New York show in 22 years, these are the fans who showed up — one as early as noon and two who hadn’t told their parents. Hi mom and dad!
Photographs by Nina Westervelt
Produced by Anya Strzemien
Interviews by Sharon Attia
If the end of this decade is memorialized as a time when women got really angry, and then even angrier, the music of Bikini Kill could provide the soundtrack.
The feminist punk band — credited with helping to launch the riot grrrl movement of the 1990s and writing its anthem, “Rebel Girl” — hadn’t played since the band broke up in 1997. But they reunited this spring for two shows in Los Angeles and four in New York. Next week will bring two more in London.
A lot had happened in those 22 years. And yet, the sound of thrashing instruments and women screaming seems more relevant than ever. As the critic Evelyn McDonnell put it: “The return of Bikini Kill feels less like a blast from the past and more like a superhero’s intervention.”
Here are a few of the fans — many of them surprisingly young, from places as far-flung as Minneapolis, Montreal and Florida — who attended the first New York gig on May 31 at Brooklyn Steel. They had all come in search of a good time (actual moshing and crowd-surfing included) and to witness a history-making moment.
These interviews have been edited and condensed, and profanity has been removed (sorry, not very punk of us). A few follow-up questions were asked later over email or DM.
Kayla Brooke, 27
How early did you get here?
You’re basically third in line.
Yeah. The other couple was here before us and they’re such angels. It’s very community feeling.
Would you consider yourself a riot grrrl?
Yes, but a modern riot grrrl, so a little bit more intersectional, if you will. That’s something that’s huge for me in my feminism: intersectionality. Because if we’re not talking about all those things then what are we doing? If our spaces are just for white women, then we’re not really creating safe spaces.
Bria Bisono, 21, and Xavier Medina, 19
Did you fly or drive to New York?
Xavier: We flew. We bought the tickets at the end of January. I was like, “It’ll be cool, I’ll come with you. I know they’re cool.”
Bria: We didn’t even ask our parents. We just booked it.
Alison Mop, 19
New York, N.Y.
How did you get into Bikini Kill?
Probably from YouTube, to be honest.
And what’s the name of your band?
How long have you liked Bikini Kill?
I’ve liked them for a while actually. I was a teenage punk girl, so they were always a big influence for me. I never actually thought that I would see them live, so this is an opportunity I couldn’t miss.
What about their music do you love?
I’ve always loved punk rock because it was a really inclusive movement, and as a handicapped person I was always welcome and felt safe in that spot. And when I found out there was a feminist movement within the punk movement, I was attracted to it. And I found this band and was like, this woman is my hero. Kathleen Hanna is great.
Molly Schnick, 40, and Nic Offer, 46
New York, N.Y.
Is this your first Bikini Kill concert?
Finally! When did you see them last?
My former band played shows with them in 1994.
What was your former band?
We were called the Tourettes.
Olivia Linnen, 18
and Leila Roberts, 18
New York, N.Y.
How long have you been into Bikini Kill?
Leila: Probably since I was 8 or something. My parents grew up listening to punk and stuff, so I grew up listening to it as well. And then I put her on to it when we became friends in high school. And then I started showing her stuff when she was 16. So this is her first punk show.
Did you grow up going to punk shows with your parents?
Yeah, for sure, totally.
Are they here?
No, they’re not.
Heather Hildreth (a.k.a. “Siouxsie Cupcakes”), 34
and Naomi Parnes (a.k.a. “Siren Sixxkiller”), 28
How long have you two been friends?
Naomi: Our best friend title became official sometime in 2016 after we performed our “Wayne’s World” burlesque act for the first time, but that’s an entirely different tangent. One of us was like, hey, I’ve been calling you my best friend lately, that cool with you? And the other of us was like, yeah I’ve been doing the same, should we send out an announcement or something?
Do you consider yourselves riot grrrls?
I can’t officially speak for both of us — our telepathy isn’t quite that honed yet — but I have a feeling I know that Heather would say the same as me, which is unequivocally yasss, I consider myself a riot grrrl. It’s been a label I’ve been inspired by for many years.
Your mohawks* are cool. What’s the story behind them?
Thank you! I definitely enjoy having a mohawk, even though it’s the most high-maintenance hairstyle I’ve ever attempted to maintain. I’m Cherokee and Jewish, so my hair genetics are strong and mighty — even with half of it shaved off on the sides, there’s still just so much of it to control.
*pictured at the top of the article
Daniel Abbott, 34, and Jen Varani, 37
What does riot grrrl mean to you?
Daniel: I knew that it wasn’t specifically for me as a male, but as a queer boy they were singing to things that I was experiencing. I was experiencing bad dudes, I was experiencing people critiquing my appearance, and so it still resonated with me.
Morgan Mitchell, 23
Is that a Daria tattoo on your leg?
Yeah, it says, “You’re standing on my neck.”
And what’s the other one?
This is like a Joan Jett/Siouxsie Sioux punk girl.
And what’s she holding?
It’s a switchblade, and it says “Rebel Girl.” So, a Bikini Kill reference.
Tiffani Argentina (a.k.a. “Gemini Blitz”), 29
and Torrie Ogilvie (a.k.a “Torrie Rose”), 31
What is it about riot grrrl that you like?
Tiffani: Female solidarity.
Torrie: It’s really especially impactful at this time in our country’s history.
What’s your favorite Bikini Kill song?
Tiffani: I would have to say “Rebel Girl.” It’s an anthem! It’s just like, “We’re girls and we want to be cute and we want to have fun but also don’t mess with us.” That’s the kind of spirit that I like to embody on a daily basis.
Chloe Smith, 18, and Anna Murphy, 16
Red Hook, N.Y.
So, given your age, this is obviously your first Bikini Kill concert. How’d you get into them?
Chloe: In ninth grade, because I was watching “Portlandia” and then I became obsessed with Carrie Brownstein and I was like, all right Sleater-Kinney kind of goes, so then I like dove too hard into “Rebel Girl” kind of stuff. I did a presentation on it.
Angelica Moreno, 27, and Bobby Bosak, 32
West Palm Beach, FL
How long have you been into Bikini Kill?
Angelica: Since high school, so I was probably like 14 when I got introduced to them.
Bobby: When I started getting into punk music, about 17 or 18 or something like that.
Cool. What is it about their music that you like?
Angelica: I don’t know. It’s just like the message that they portray and like hell yeah, women. I just love everything about it.
Bobby: What she said.
Danielle Cusack, 22
Why do you think this reunion is important?
I think it’s important because there’s generations of people here. At the L.A. show there was a little girl on the shoulders of her father watching Bikini Kill. It was so heartwarming and amazing to see that this tradition is being continued. And I think it’s always important for people to see women on stage who are angry. Because we’re constantly told that we have to contain our anger or we have to be sad.
What are you angry about?
Everything. For real.