This article was originally published on Respect My Region
“It’s nice to see refusal in the streets,” Kathleen Hanna said halfway through Le Tigre‘s set on Sunday night.
She was talking about goths and eyeliner in Los Angeles during the summer, but the larger message of dissidence, like a lot of her lyrics, rang through the playful narrative encircling it. It is indeed refreshing to spot refusal of any kind in broad daylight to those who’ve spent an irretrievable chunk of their lives mindlessly nodding at things that, upon close inspection, don’t add up.
Very few people are equipped with the craftiness and panache to get people talking. Hanna is a personality unlike any other because she has steadily managed to do so for over three decades with an amiable stridence covered in punk DNA.
Le Tigre Creates A Safe Space to Combat Dangerous Ideas
Standing shoulder to shoulder with Johanna Fateman and JD Samson turned Hanna’s voice into a superpower. Today, Le Tigre is an insurmountable force with a purpose that has remained consistent, true and relevant over the 25 years since they started out. One city at a time, the trio has been stomping across the world and spreading the good word of feminism, queer rights and everything in between since getting back together in 2022.
Based on their performance at LA’s Greek Theatre over the weekend, it is clear that the general sentiments responsible for birthing entities like Le Tigre run deep to this very day. Women and LGBTQIA+ folk have continued to wrestle with a brand of bigotry that has only diminished nominally over the years, which is why members of those communities are now bringing their kids to support the artists who told them they weren’t invisible back when they needed to hear it the most.
The Matriarch of Punk
A little context: Kathleen Hanna spearheaded the feminist punk movement of the 90s that came to be known as riot grrrl. Her band, Bikini Kill, is widely credited with adding tons of muscle mass to the creative circuit of third-wave feminism, the fundamentals of which inform outlooks on the politics of sex and gender even today. A lot of the people who participated in said underground scene continue to carry with them all that they accomplished during an otherwise deplorable phase characterized by the red-blooded, male filth of Woodstock ’99. Powering through the ick became a badge of honor, and this is evident from seeing the troops re-congregate when bands like Le Tigre pass through town.
“I found this music scene anyone could participate in and it didn’t make me feel stupid,” Hanna told the audience about finding her rhythm during her formative years and subsequently coming into her own.
The music she has unleashed into the wild throughout her career has always nudged people forward, toward a future secured by self-belief and perseverance. There is an undeniable allure to someone who can continue having that effect on a crowd through the generations, which is why her presence is still ripe with potential to pierce through the norm.
The Most Productive Form of Rebellion Is to “Keep on Livin’”
Succinct and accessible, Le Tigre is perhaps Hanna’s most riveting outlet. The trio found a way to make punk digestible without diluting its essence — drum machines, exuberant dances, lots of colorful imagery and a smiley attitude that, make no mistake, is bolstered by a healthy aggression you don’t want to bring out. The three-piece is shrill, squeaky and not at all difficult to make a case against for being annoying, but their sincerity is what keeps getting them reelected to positions of leadership.
With only three LPs to their credit, the last of which dropped almost twenty years ago, Hanna, Fateman and Samson perform catchy, musical slogan with bold subtitles flashing behind them to drive the point home, from “Keep on livin'” to “Fuck Giuliani.” These songs were designed to inspire a pushback, yet they never feel miserable or angry.
It turns out you can drop the anchor, refuse to settle and still have lots of fun — in fact, it scares people who feed off passivity, which makes the whole process all the more rousing.