Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna

Today is the 29th birthday of Kathleen Hanna, lead vocalist and

songwriter of Bikini Kill, the archetypal riot-grrrl band from Olympia,

Wash., that broke up earlier this year. The band was formed in

the late '80s at Evergreen College in Olympia by ex-stripper Hanna, Tobi

Vail (drums) and Kathi Wilcox (bass), who initially came together to

produce a feminist publication entitled Bikini Kill. They added

guitarist Billy Boredom after deciding that they wanted to set their ideals

to performance. The group's political anthems and high-energy punk

wrought a whole generation of angry female rockers -- dubbed riot grrrls -- such

as Sleater-Kinney.

Bikini Kill's crazy, charged live performances encouraged gatherings of

women front and center in the audience to speak and rally about feminine

empowerment. The band's 1991

distributed-by-hand demo, Revolution Girl Style Now, established

Bikini Kill's point of view and led to 1992's eponymous EP, issued by Kill Rock

Stars, an Olympia-based indie label. The EP consisted largely of

better-produced versions of the demo songs, including the classic


My Left One" (RealAudio excerpt).

That same year, Bikini Kill issued an unusual record -- an

LP on which they shared sides with the British group Huggy Bear. Though

Bikini Kill's side, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, was not their best work,

their U.K. tour with Huggy Bear brought the riot-grrrl movement to a

much wider audience.

Joan Jett, the original tough rock-chick, produced

the New Radio EP, featuring "Rebel Girl," because of her

admiration of Bikini Kill, and Hanna reciprocated by writing the song

"Spinster" for Jett.

Pussy Whipped (1993) is generally

considered to be Bikini Kill's best effort, because of its full-tilt

lyrical and musical approach on such tracks as "Sugar," an ode to sexual

frustration. The album and its follow-up, 1996's Reject

All American, also included songs composed by Vail and Wilcox.

But Bikini Kill split up earlier this year when Hanna and Wilcox decided to move east to work on different projects. Hanna, who previously collaborated on the single "Rock Star" with Kill Rock Stars owner Slim Moon, has recorded an album under the name Julie Ruin that will be released in September. Kill Rock Stars will release a compilation of Bikini Kill's EP songs sometime this month.

Other birthdays: Dean Felber (Hootie and the Blowfish), 31.