Last night was TBA's free opening night show, featuring original riot grrrl Kathleen Hannah's new band The Julie Ruin and adorable openers from School of Rock and the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls.
First things first: God, it's good to get out of Washington High School. That venue was cool—especially the first year—but it was consistently strained beyond capacity by opening night crowds. Security posed challenges, there were endless lines, the unisex bathrooms were time-based experiments in total grossness... In comparison, the giant Con-Way warehouse feels goddamn luxurious, with plenty of room for last night's crowds. (Though it remains to be seen how ticketed shows with less of a draw will fare—it's an awfully big space.) The line to get in to the venue moved fast (once I found the grownup entrance), the lines for food and drink were long but manageable, and at no point did I get the refrain from "Hater's Anthem" stuck in my head, which... kinda usually happens on opening night at TBA.
Con-Way is a warehouse space slated to turn into a New Seasons soon. It's an adamant return to the days where TBA was a roving, pop-up operation in a different space every year, and PICA clearly poured a ton of work into transforming it into a venue suitable for multiple sizes and types of shows. In addition to the main stage, there's a small gallery and I *think* another small theater space, though I didn't have a chance to full explore last night. It's a really cool space—the kind of thing you wish Portland had all the time—and I'd recommend checking it out before it starts selling organic fruit snacks and locally fermented miso.
I'll be curious to hear what other people thought of the show last night. I loved it, but it was an almost defiantly un-arty choice for a festival opener. (That's why I loved it. I like to see a few big, everyone-is-welcome events at TBA every year, in addition to the more specialized and less accessible stuff, and I particularly liked that this show tapped into the history of riot grrrl in the Pacific Northwest.)
When I got there, tiny kids from the School of Rock were covering Sleater-Kinney. I mean, hello, thing guaranteed to make Alison Hallett happy. Corin Tucker was in the crowd. It was neat, and the kids were goddamn adorable. They played a bunch of covers at a volume that was clearly a bit much for some of the crowd, and then a band who met at the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls played a short set, proudly announcing that two of their members were queer women of color.
The Julie Ruin opened with "V.G.I.", an old track off Kathleen Hanna's 1997 solo record. (It stands for "Valley Girl Intelligensia"; it's about being smart while wearing a scrunch.) The old tracks sounded fantastic fleshed out by a full band. I particularly enjoyed backup singer Kenny Mellman—of Kiki and Herb fame—whose stage presence, long-haired and tie-dye clad and bellowing backup vocals, was absolutely hilarious. I admit, the newer tracks kind of blurred together for me, but Hanna was in great spirits and it was really fun to see her bopping around the stage like it was 2001. She made a point of acknowledging the all-ages section a few times, which was a nice gesture given that the kids were kinda shoved over to the side of the stage. I didn't stay through the encore, because it was loud and I was tired (I KNOW), but I thought it was a really successful show, all things considered.