Riot Grrrl Night Review: The Punk Singer and Suck My Culture

Suck My Culture photos: Libby Gyllenship.

Plymouth Arts Centre’s punk night was a raucous and wonderful celebration of ladies in music with riot grrrl band Suck My Culture rocking the bar between films. People were blown away by ‘We Are The Best’ and ‘The Punk Singer’, with lots of calls for ‘more of this kind of thing’… watch this space. By the way, you still have until 26 June to see ‘We Are the Best’, and you definitely should!

The Punk Singer
Review by Louise Thomas
Twitter: @louisecthomas

Watching The Punk Singer was a visceral experience for me. I was 12 when I first heard Bikini Kill on Radio 1’s Evening Session in 1993. I was instantly hooked. Hanna, in all her wild, raw energy, spoke to me at 12, and still speaks to me now at 33.

The film follows Hanna’s striking career from her early spoken word pieces in the late 1980s through to her forming Bikini Kill, co-founding the Riot Grrrl movement, single-handedly making her first solo album in her bedroom, taking on the world of electronic music with her band Le Tigre and her current band, The Julie Ruin. It also follows the story of her ill-health, which led to her disappearance from the music scene in 2005 for several years, her battle for a diagnosis and her struggle to recover. It is a history of Riot Grrrl, of fanzines and of true, punk DIY. All this, held together with an overwhelming sense of ‘anything is possible’.

Friends and band mates form a queue of inspiring female musicians from Joan Jett to Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, but one of the most satisfying things about this film is the sheer amount of original footage of Bikini Kill playing live in the 90s. It was extremely satisfying for my 12, 13, 14 year old self to finally see what I was too young to see the first time around, and man do I wish I could’ve been there! Hanna’s stage prescience is both terrifying and captivating. As her husband says “…like a car crash… but a good one!’.

This film does not disappoint. From beginning to end, the story of Hanna’s artistic life is more than just that. It is the story of my generation’s feminism, and all the wider ramifications for women making music and who love to watch. There are many political statements I could make about this film, but there isn’t the room in this review. Just go see it!

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