Bikini Kill played Roadrunner – 4/9

Reunited punk luminaries Bikini Kill played their first Boston show in decades on Easter Sunday, with support from Brontez Purnell.

Like many a tour that sought to get off the ground in 2020, the reunion run of riot grrrl pillars Bikini Kill has been beset with roadblocks. Originally scheduled at the opulent downtown Wang Theatre for May of that year, the band’s Boston appearance was pushed at least twice before this month’s date was finally locked in. The upscale trappings of the Wang are a long way from T.T.’s in the mid-’90s, and when the show was finally moved to the comparatively spartan Roadrunner, it felt like a better fit. After all, who’s trying to relax in a plush orchestra box at the punk gig?

Roadrunner is still a big room, but founding members Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail and Kathi Wilcox brought a no-frills immediacy to the stage that made it feel a whole lot more intimate. With low lights and not so much as a banner for backdrop, their focus was squarely on the songs, of which they played plenty with a fervor not dulled by the years. There’s still plenty to be fired up about in said songs, of course, which serve as foundational feminist punk texts and grapple with issues that feel all too familiar thirty years on from the band’s founding.

The material clearly still holds meaning for the band, and one needn’t have looked further than the packed-in crowd at the rail for proof of Bikini Kill’s sustained resonance among listeners too. Whereas many a ’90s reunion would find that space occupied by grizzled scene veterans, theirs was a remarkable percentage of fans who were likely learning to walk or yet to be born at all the last time the band played here. The spirit was communal from opener “Double Dare Ya” on, ecstatic even amid dark turns of subject matter and ultimately a testament to the band’s power transcending generation and scene.

Opener Brontez Purnell – a veteran performer, bandleader, author and dancer – fronted an indie rock three-piece for support duties, alternating catchy tunes with unpredictably absurdist banter as compelling as the songs themselves. Photos from both sets below.