That Time I Almost Saw My Idol On The Loo
There was once a time when I almost saw Kathleen Hanna doing a piss.
By Alex Campbell
There was once a time when I almost saw Kathleen Hanna doing a piss. It was at a Julie Ruin show at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne. I’d been waiting months for this show, saving up my pennies for tickets and flights down to Melbourne. I didn’t know anyone else who was going, but it didn’t matter. Nothing was going to stop me from seeing this band.
I heard the song ‘Rebel Girl’ for the first time when I was fourteen years old. It was 2004. I’d gone through my older sister’s CD collection and chosen Pussy Whipped from the shelf, as the weird cover intrigued me. The name caught my attention as well. It wasn’t like I was consciously looking for bands with girls in them, but when I listened to Bikini Kill for the first time I suddenly realised it was what had been missing from my life. Never before had I related so much to a band. The female singer’s yells and screams tore through me. The lyrics washed over me, pierced my soul, every single word jolting me like electric shocks of truth.
It was my awakening. I suddenly felt I could accomplish anything. I could live my life how I wanted and I didn’t need any guy to help me get there.
It wasn’t until years later, when I was about eighteen, that I discovered more Bikini Kill albums, more girl bands and of course the Riot Grrrl movement. I read a book called Girls To The Front and it inspired me to start making my own zine, to start a band and to go out and try anything and everything; not to be held back or afraid to be what I wanted to be. It was my awakening. I suddenly felt I could accomplish anything. I could live my life how I wanted and I didn’t need any guy to help me get there. All I needed was me, a guitar, maybe some paper, pens and a stapler.
It was around the same time that I met my best friend Caroline at Uni. I sometimes feel that this period was the start of my life as it is now. It was what kick started my empowerment and freedom, my life as a strong, courageous, ambitious woman. Caroline and her high school friend Laura wanted to start an all girl punk band. They asked me join them and together we created Gunk. We decided on the name after reading an old 90’s skater girl zine called Gunk, written by New Yorker, Ramdasha Bikceem. We were actually contacted by Ramdasha a few months after we got a Facebook page for the band. The joys of modern technology! Ramdasha told us how she used to have an all girl band called Gunk when she was younger and together they created the Gunk zine. She was amazed that we had actually named our band after her zine.
Gunk’s biggest influences were Bikini Kill, L7 and Sleater Kinney. We wrote sludgy, screamy songs about our experiences with eating issues, sex, body image, sexual assault, harassment, emotionally abusive relationships, arse-hole lovers and being discriminated against and excluded in male dominated scenes and situations.
It was empowering singing about this stuff to people, yelling “Hey!, did you know this stuff is happening!? It’s really fucked and you should be aware of it!”. It was empowering having an audience there to listen to you, who wanted to listen to you. I had always been quiet and shy and was always accommodating other people and not speaking up about things when I wanted to. It was cathartic to be able to shout about these injustices and to yell and jump around in front of people, in a way in which I wouldn’t usually have behaved. Most of all, being in Gunk taught me the importance of female solidarity and healthy friendships; having women in your life who love you, support you, inspire you and encourage you to be the best you can be.
I pushed open the door to a vacant cubicle and heard someone make a startled noise. A small woman with a dark ponytail stepped out, clearing her throat. It was Kathleen Hanna.
Fast-forward four years to Melbourne. Afraid that I’d get lost trying to find the venue, I allowed plenty of time to get there and of course arrived at The Corner way too early. I walked through the door, full of jitters, and saw the members of The Julie Ruin sitting at the bar. No one else was there. I freaked out and ran to the bathroom. I pushed open the door to a vacant cubicle and heard someone make a startled noise. A small woman with a dark ponytail stepped out, clearing her throat. It was Kathleen Hanna.
“Oh sorry!” I squawked.
She smiled at me in a sort of exasperated way and I let her out of the cubicle. I shut the door, sat down on the toilet and almost screamed, realising what I had done. What a way to meet your idol!
I decided, after that, that I didn’t want to meet her properly, so instead I went and ate some sushi. An hour later I went and watched the show and it was incredible. The Julie Ruin are an energetic, funky band. The members were very funny, giving hilarious anecdotes in between songs. Kathleen danced around in her signature ‘no pants’ style. She was friendly to the audience, asking us questions and telling us about her time in Australia. She even protected a girl in the front row who was being squished. Kathi played bass solemnly and silently. They played two Bikini Kill songs and a Le Tigre song. It felt like I was fourteen again, watching my favourite band, being blown away by the rawness and rage of Riot Grrrl.
The gig was everything I imagined it to be. Afterwards, I hung around and Kathi Wilcox walked out of the stage door. Everyone ignored her and stayed hanging around the exit waiting for Kathleen to come out. I walked up to Kathi and said “Hi”. We shook hands and introduced ourselves. I told her how much I’d enjoyed the show, how much The Julie Ruin and Bikini Kill mean to me and how her music helped me as a teenager, inspiring me to start my own band. She thanked me, saying I was too kind. I asked if I could give her a tape of Gunk and she said yes. She took the tape and looked at it, opening up the case and smiling. She said she liked the cover art. I said that we decorated all the tapes by hand. She asked if we were on Facebook and promised to have a listen to the tape. By that time I was about to burst with star-struckness, so I thanked her again and said goodbye.
As I walked out of the venue I felt as if I were floating. I thought to myself, even if she never listens to the tape, even if she doesn’t ‘like’ us on Facebook, I got the chance to spend two minutes with one of the women who made the music that changed my life and helped make me who I am. I got to thank her for doing that. I’m just really glad I didn’t walk in on her on the loo as well.
Alex Campbell has been playing in bands and organising shows for four years. She has also been creating her zine, Slubberdegullion Magazine, or ‘Slubs’, for the same amount of time. She is currently studying Creative Writing and Spanish at Uni and planning an overseas tour for her band Gunk.