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Bratmobile Reuniting After 20-Year Break for John Waters-Hosted Festival

Lineup also features Le Tigre, ESG, Gravy Train!!!!, and J.J. Fad
Photo: Mike Galinsky

It’s been an exhilarating couple of weeks for fans of feminist punk bands, first with the announcement that the Kathleen Hanna-led Le Tigre is reuniting for the first time in 18 years and now, Bratmobile has confirmed its first live appearance in 20 years.

Singer Allison Wolfe and drummer Molly Neuman will be joined by musicians from Tiger Trap, Mocket, and Ted Leo & the Pharmacists for their performance on July 2 at the John Waters-hosted Mosswood Meltdown in Oakland, Ca. In a stroke of riot grrrl synergy, Le Tigre will also perform at the event alongside ESG, Gravy Train!!!!, J.J. Fad, the Rondelles, Avengers, Quintron & Ms. Pussycat, and more.

“It’s been more than 20 years since our last tour, and life has changed and grown in many ways,” Wolfe and Neuman said in a joint statement. “In 2019, we got the original lineup back together to play a big birthday party for our band sister, Tobi Vail of Bikini Kill. After the show, we talked about playing again, but it wasn’t the right time, and then … 2020. Now we are both living in Los Angeles, and when the opportunity to play this special show in one of our hometowns came up, we decided to go for it.”

Bratmobile will be rounded out on stage at Mosswood Meltdown by guitarist Rose Melberg (Tiger Trap, the Softies), keyboardist Audrey Marrs (Mocket), and bassist Marty Key on bass (Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Young Pioneers). It is unknown if the group is planning any additional performances.

Wolfe and Neuman met in 1989 while studying at the University of Oregon in Eugene, and began playing lo-fi shows amid the nascent Pacific Northwest indie rock scene two years later. A memorable early gig was at the International Pop Underground Convention in Olympia, Wa., in August 1991, alongside Fugazi, Beat Happening, Melvins, and Mecca Normal.

Quickly rising to prominence alongside Kill Rock Stars labelmate Hanna’s influential riot grrrl band Bikini Kill, Bratmobile released its first album, Pottymouth, in 1993. The 17-song, 27-minute project was packed with quick, punchy songs that called out sexism and bigotry, inspiring a legion of young listeners just being introduced to feminist concepts. Kill Rock Stars created a podcast series about the album, Girl Germs, in 2018 in honor of its 20th anniversary.

Bratmobile didn’t last long after the release of Pottymouth, however. While touring in support of 1994’s The Real Janelle EP, the band split up onstage at New York’s Threadwaxing Space in front of peers and influences such as Joan Jett, and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon. Somewhat surprisingly, Bratmobile reunited in 1999 and released two more albums, but stopped recording and performing again in 2003.

“I was at probably their first show, when they opened up for the Melvins,” Hanna told SPIN in a 2005 interview, during which she named The Real Janelle as one of the albums that changed her life. “It was scary — guys in the audience were threatening to kill them and stuff. I was a huge fan, though, and played with them all the time. We were on the same label, so any time they put out a record, the first thing we did was get our hands on it. This record is really well-produced, and Allison singing is really good.”

Based on the simpatico lineup and Waters’ hosting panache, it would seem Mosswood Meltdown is the perfect re-entry point for Bratmobile after all these years. “Mosswood Meltdown is like a July 4th musical pyrotechnic display that explodes all on its own with slamming human cherry bombs, moshing punk-rock roman candles, and scary screaming sparklers of every race and gender,” Waters says. “These are my people and I can’t wait to light the fuse on stage.”