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Theatre, Music, etc.


July 15, 2011

Evenings Out

Le Tigre on tour

Film follows seminal feminist-queer band on the road

Gathered together from the cosmic reaches of the musical universe, here on a greatly justified DVD, are the most powerful forces of rock ever assembled: Kathleen Hanna! Johanna Fateman! JD Sampson! Dedicated to truth, feminism and electroclash, they are Le Tigre!

With all due apologies to Hanna-Barbera’s Super Friends, this ridiculously epic opening seems appropriate for a review of Le Tigre’s tour DVD, shot in 2004 and 2005 while the band was touring the world.

Now out on Oscilloscope, Kerthy Fix’s Who Took the Bomp? puts forward either an historically relevant examination of a truly seminal feminist, queer band, or an oddly-timed paean to the band whose sole work as a cohesive unit in the last four years was producing a song for Christina Aguilera.

Given that Fix also directed Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields, let’s err on the side of nobility and go with the former.

As a bit of belated introduction for those unfamiliar with Le Tigre (those who know the band will simply get the DVD regardless of what is said about it), the trio formed in the late 1990s, comprised of Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and solo project Julie Ruin, former ’zinester Johanna Fateman and filmmaker Sadie Benning.

Benning went back to her film career and was succeeded in the band by JD Sampson, a native of Northeast Ohio.

While in the popular eye of the media, Hanna was the band, Fix shows a very different picture when viewed from the inside. Le Tigre is far more a gestalt, resulting from the interaction of three complex yet independent systems that come together to be far more than the sum of its parts.

Seeing the three women on the bill at a punk/metal tour interacting with the douchebag rockers in Slipknot is amazing enough, but then we watch them turn down free advertising because the magazine refuses to include the word lesbian, while another outlet refers to Sampson as “the dyke with the moustache.”

Hanna is one of the major movers and shakers who formed the nexus of Riot Grrl sensibility; Fateman and Sampson have never had the same visibility, even with their new band Men. Sampson and Fateman get to shine in the DVD, even though at times the film seems neither here nor there. It’s not like following Nirvana or Joy Division on tour, where lead singers Kurt Cobain and Ian Curtis later committed suicide, bringing an abrupt end to the bands. Instead, the trio decided to pursue other things, irregularly orbiting each other in the ensuing years. That lack of both closure and a build to greatness seems somehow dissatisfying.

Having said that, however, there is an even greater redeeming feature than the band members’ senses of humor, humanity and justice.

Music. Lots of music. Le Tigre music.




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