Reviews

Gig Review: Bikini Kill and Big Joanie, Melkweg, Amsterdam

US Riot Grrrl pioneers Bikini Kill and UK Black Feminist Sistah Punks Big Joanie hit the Netherlands on their 2024 European tour - Herman de Tollenaere was there!

Long ago, the Melkweg building in Amsterdam used to be a milk factory. Ever since the 1960s it’s been a music venue. Many bands have played there, including very recently the UK Subs, punk veterans from 1976.
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On 6th June 2024, two younger punk bands came here: the pioneer riot grrrls of Bikini Kill, founded in 1990 in the USA, and the even younger Big Joanie from London, founded in 2013.

The Amsterdam Big Joanie and Bikini Kill fans seemed on average considerably younger – about 20 years old and mostly female!

Big Joanie / Bikini Kill audience - Amsterdam 2024 - photo by Susana Martins

I also met a fifty-something man from Rotterdam, who the day before had seen these two bands in Antwerp, Belgium, and had liked them so much that he also decided to travel to the Amsterdam show. Among tonight’s audience were Ineke Mieneke, drummer and Veerle, keyboardist of Dutch riot grrrl band Panterprint; and Andrea Galova, who was the singer of De Fatwa’s.

I thought that the UK Subs concert the Melkweg had been packed to the rafters and that having more people inside would be impossible, but Big Joanie and Bikini Kill proved that even more jampacked than jampacked is possible! The two bands had previously played together on this June 2024 tour in Paris and Antwerp.

Big Joanie - Stephanie and Estella - Amsterdam 2024 - photo by Susana Martins

In 2022 Big Joanie released their second album ‘Back Home‘ on Kill Rock Stars label. Starting the show promptly at 8pm, they turned out to be even better live than on their record. The band were: Stephanie Phillips on vocals and guitar, sometimes vocals and tambourine, at centre stage. Estella Adeyeri on bass, sometimes vocals and guitar, on the right. Vanessa Govinden on guitar, sometimes on keyboard, on the left. At the back, on drums Lu Dennis, singer of the band gruntpunx (Punx of Colour from London).

Big Joanie Vanessa Govinden
Big Joanie - Vanessa Govinden - photo by Susana Martins
Big Joanie - Lu Dennis - photo by Susana Martins

First song played ‘Happier Still‘ is about overcoming depression. They pointed out: “People see us as strong. Which we are. But we also have vulnerabilities.” – see the video below, with Stephanie on tambourine. ‘Confident Man‘, as Stephanie explained, is about con men: “CEOs of big multi-national corporations.” To huge applause, Big Joanie left the stage.

Then, the headliners Bikini Kill played. Their current line-up is Kathleen Hanna (vocals), Kathi Wilcox (bass), Sara Landeau (guitar) and Tobi Vail (drums and sunglasses). Well .. it is if they don’t swap instruments mid-set..
Tobi Vail is sometimes called the ideologist of the riot grrrl tendency within punk; which
arose in the 1990s in the USA and still inspires many recently founded bands all over the
world, including in the Netherlands. After a short introduction by Kathleen, the band burst into their first song, ‘New Radio‘. The audience immediately started pogoing!

Bikini Kill's Kathleen & Tobi - Amsterdam 2024 - photo by Susana Martins

Included in the set were ‘Alien She‘, ‘Double Dare Ya‘, succeeded by ‘Carnival‘, ‘Sugar‘ and ‘DemiRep‘, which was sung without the a capella first part as on their record.
After Kathleen gave a shout out to Big Joanie, Bikini Kill played ‘Tony Randall‘.

Bikini Kill guitarist Sara Landeau - photo by Susana Martins
Bikini Kill guitarist Sara Landeau - photo by Susana Martins

Continuing with ‘Reject All American‘and ‘Feels Blind‘, the audience reacted enthusiastically to the Bikini Kill set, as the photo shows.

Then, drummer Tobi Vail became lead singer for ‘Distinct Complicity‘, with Tobi on vocals, Kathleen on bass, Kathi on drums, and only Sara still with her usual guitar. This format continued for ‘Tell Me So‘, before it was all change again with Sara playing drums, Kathi guitar, Tobi singing, and Kathleen on bass. All four band members proved that they were not stuck in just one role.

Bikini Kill and audience - photo by Susana Martins
Bikini Kill and audience - photo by Susana Martins

Then, before the last song of the set, Kathleen verbally and deservedly attacked heterosexual male pedophiles for harassing little girls before launching into ‘Suck My Left One‘. The band hung up their instruments and left the stage. But, by massively clapping and shouting, the whole Melkweg made it clear that they wanted to hear more Bikini Kill.

Bikini Kill bassist Kathi Wilcox - photo by Veerle
Bikini Kill bassist Kathi Wilcox - photo by Veerle

So, the band members returned to the stage to play their encore, ‘Rebel Girl‘. The whole hall became a billowing moshpit, with everyone singing along, before leaving the Melkweg with keen memories of a great night!

If the UK Subs ever decide to stop (I hope they never do), then they can rest assured that their heritage is in safe hands, definitely including the hands of Big Joanie and Bikini Kill.

Bikini Kill will play further concerts this year, in the UK and in North America, as will Big Joanie, in the UK, Germany and Paris.

Main Photo Credit: VEERLE (of Panterprint)

BIG JOANIE:

  1. Happier
  2. Taut
  3. What Are You Waiting For
  4. Confident Man
  5. Sainted
  6. In My Arms
  7. It’s You
  8. Fall Asleep
 
BIKINI KILL:
  1. New Radio
  2. This Is Not a Test
  3. Don’t Need You
  4. Jigsaw Youth
  5. Feels Blind
  6. I Hate Danger
  7. In Accordance to Natural Law
  8. Double Dare Ya
  9. Carnival
  10. Capri Pants
  11. Tony Randall
  12. For Only
  13. Distinct Complicity
  14. Demi Rep
  15. Reject All American
  16. Alien She
  17. No Backrub
  18. Sugar
  19. Hamster Baby
  20. Tell Me So
  21. Star Bellied Boy
  22. Lil’ Red
  23. Suck My Left One


Encore:

  1. Rebel Girl
 
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