by Hannah Levin

Le Tigre

w/the Aislers Set, King Cobra

Thurs June 12, Showbox, 8 pm, $13 adv/$15 DOS (all ages).

"I don't want to be a part of your revolution if I can't dance." This oft-referenced quote by anarchist Emma Goldman could very well be Le Tigre's mission statement. Their eponymous debut in 1999 initially attracted critical attention as the new forum for ex-Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna, but what made it a slow-burning success was its sassy cross-pollination of grownup Grrrl polemics and thoroughly infectious, neo-wave dance anthems. With help from co-conspirators Johanna Fateman and Sadie Benning (later replaced by J. D. Samson), Hanna's new boogie bomb squad was unleashed on the opening track, "Deceptacon," a sharp-witted inquisition into the commercial thinning of Riot Grrrl's political aspirations (and a song so well loved that I heard it played at nearly every social gathering I attended in 2000). It was clear Le Tigre were throwing a political dance party--one that sacrificed neither theory nor hummability in its pursuit of a good time.

The release of Feminist Sweepstakes in 2001 showed the band's sense of humor was intact and their skills with cut-and-paste electronica were growing immensely. In addition to the obvious technical progression, Hanna's voice had never sounded better. While her confrontational vocal presence has always sounded bravely antagonistic throughout her career, it's been undermined by her tendency to veer into a screech that grates more than invigorates. With Sweepstakes, she showed off the quirky snarls and charismatic yowls that make her voice so expressive, but with a self-aware confidence that made her delivery far more potent, a positive change that Hanna openly embraced.

"People will say, 'Why won't you sing more like you did in Bikini Kill?'" explains Hanna via phone from her home in New York City. "But if I kept doing that I wouldn't be a singer for much longer--not only would I be bored, but it fucks up my throat really badly. I already have the biggest tonsils in the world. They're like boulders of bedrock!"

Listening to Hanna giggle as she bemoans her overtaxed tonsils illuminates one of the best aspects of Le Tigre's evolution. The band members incorporate a mature sense of humor and joy into their work without subduing their passion for politics or pop--not an easy feat for someone with Hanna's history.

"When you come from a community-oriented art scene based in radical politics, you have to get rid of some of the stuff that grows in your mind--'If it sounds good it's part of "The Man's System,"'" says Hanna, reflecting on her early days in Olympia. "I feel like we've waded through that successfully and we don't have to second-guess ourselves as artists. We're creating the music we want to hear."

They're also wading through a fiercely conservative political era while finishing up their third full-length album (to come out on a yet to be determined label), a convergence of events that Fateman sees in pragmatic terms. "It wasn't like I said, 'Oh, I'm going to be in a feminist electro-pop dance band when I grow up,' but it feels really good that we represent some kind of continuity in feminist culture--like we're carrying the torch through a really retrogressive political era."

When the torch gets to Seattle, we'll probably be in for a hell of a show, simply because of fortuitous timing and the band's love of these upcoming months. "We have a lot of friends on the West Coast, so it's great to tour when the weather is nice and take a break from the studio," enthuses Fateman.

That break includes bringing freshly shot footage of friends dancing to their new material and incorporating it into their live presentation. A Le Tigre show is a gleeful sensory overload of video projections, sampled tracks, and live instrumentation that always brings an enthusiastic crowd to the dance floor, but also showcases the feminist call to arms the trio always has in mind.

"It can sound really poppy and still have a lot of content in it--that's always been the goal," says Hannah emphatically. "You have to calm down and give yourself a break. If there's joy in it, it'll be infectious--and so will the politics."

editor@thestranger.com

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