Le Tigre (Tuesday, August 9th, 2005, First Avenue, Minneapolis)
Le Tigre is my favorite feminist cartoon band. They have a message, but it is their style and presentation that gets their fans all worked up. As they played a packed First Avenue Tuesday night, I realized that a Le Tigre show is not just a concert, but also a spectacle. We arrived at 8:40 pm, disoriented due to the fact that the three women in the band (Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman, and J.D. Samson) were already tramping around the stage, singing loudly in high-pitched, melodic, riot-grrl yells. Surprised that a First Avenue show had actually begun at its allotted time (8:30), I quickly found a spot at the back to enjoy it.
The stage setup was easily the most eye-catching I’ve seen at any show. It was mostly dark, with a screen lit up by large polka dots, art collages, and film of people dancing against neon walls, all synchronized in time to the music. The band was dressed in matching outfits of glow-in-the-dark green, blue, and white, and throughout each song performed perfectly choreographed 1960s-inspired dance routines with the enthusiasm of crazed Hanna-Barbara characters. The crowd was extremely eccentric, consisting of lesbian couples, pierced and tattooed riot grrls and boys, hipsters, Abercrombie and Fitch kids, and toe-tapping middle-agers in plaid shirts. But they were all going wild as the band played a varied selection from all three of their albums: 1999’s Le Tigre, 2002’s Feminist Sweepstakes, and last year’s major label effort This Island. A loud cheer went up as the drum machine’s low growl signaled the beginning of Le Tigre’s sensationally silly “What’s Ya Take On Cassavettes?” “Genius!” “Misogynist!” The women argued, and the crowd along with them.
Le Tigre is the first band I can remember seeing that used a drum machine all the way through their set, and though the machine itself (along with the keyboards and samplers) was the backbone of the music, I didn’t care. If I wanted to see someone wail on a guitar, I would’ve seen another band, because Le Tigre is about experiencing the music along with the fans, showing them it’s okay to dance and scream without hiding behind an instrument. The sound was perfect, and each woman’s voice had its own certain something to help it soar above digitized beats and thumping bass.
Le Tigre closed their set with the empowerment anthem “Keep On Living” from Feminist Sweepstakes, and Le Tigre’s dance floor shaker “Hot Topic,” which Hanna dedicated to Minneapolis band Babes in Toyland. As they left the stage, over the screen played a short anti-Bush/anti-war film accompanied by This Island’s “New Kicks,” and the band re-entered the stage quickly to end the chants of “Peace! Now!” clad in mod dresses embossed with the words “Stop Bush.” After one more song, they exited the stage once again and the crowd cheered for another encore. They got one. The girls danced back out onto the stage, playing This Island’s ferocious “TKO,” followed by the lead track from Le Tigre, fan-favorite “Deceptacon.”
The show ended, disappointingly, after only an hour, and the fans were
rabid for more. But Le Tigre gave so much energy that we could hardly
blame them. They gave us all we could ask for, and I realized what I really
wanted was not to see more of the concert from the back; I wanted to be
up on stage dancing with them.