Le Tigre: On Tour
“What’s the status of Le Tigre?” an eager—albeit slightly angst-ridden—fan asks Kathleen Hanna during the Q&A session after the screening of Le Tigre: On Tour. I, too, had been wondering the same question—because this band, who has proven so formative to women young and old everywhere, seems to exist only in our collective lesbo-feminist consciousness at the moment. For myself, in particular, I was introduced to Le Tigre’s music a year before they performed their final show in NYC, on 18 September 2005, so I never had the opportunity to witness their awesomeness in concert. Their existence to me, in other words, was always to me like a memory, an extant pastness that is real but not actual in that particular moment. I think their existence, for me, is kind of like how people understand Jesus or Santa Claus: he’s touched their hearts, and therefore he’s real… at least they think he’s real, but they’ve never actually seen him.
Which is why this documentary is so utterly amazing: the film, comprised of compiled concert and backstage footage from their final tour for the album This Island in 2004, and including more recent interviews with the trio—Johanna Fateman and JD Samson, in addition to Kathleen Hanna—is essential to the band’s continued existence in our collective lesbo-feminist consciousness. Seeing footage of live performances made me dance in my seat, and it brought tears to my eyes, particularly during the scene in which Hanna turns to Samson and gives her an acknowledging look—the “this is it” moment—of it being the last performance (“Deceptacon”) of their final show.
Director Kerthy Fix did a brilliant job creating this documentary in a way that proves attractive to all audiences: her attention to the trio of characters, and their feminist, queer ethics that embody the desire that each person be her “own lost hero,” as Hanna professes, speaks to everyone who wants to cultivate themselves as strong, powerful, and unique individuals. The documentary-as-archive is so crucial not only to preserving the band’s music, but also Le Tigre as a seminal part of the riot grrl movement, which has been built by the enterprising musical endeavors of the band collectively and separately, as each has her own individual pursuits.
Here we can think, of course, of Kathleen Hanna’s previous band, Bikini Kill, as the foundational component of this movement. And, as we Bikini Kill fans know so well, there is a scarcity of Bikini Kill footage out there—they existed before the explosion of the Interwebs, of the social media sites and blogs—so having this documentary is a welcomed addition to the steadily growing archive of the feminist and riot grrl movements.
Kudos to Fix for providing feminists young and old with this filmic insight into the iconic band—from Hanna’s deadpan explication of dressing room snack items (i.e., a bowl of fruit fit for the pope) to Fateman’s detailed vitamin regimen and Samson’s coming to terms with her Casanova status—and their raw lyrics and hot dance moves (“West Side Story meets Jazzercise,” to be precise).
Le Tigre: On Tour does not yet have a distributor; indeed, it’s still in the processing stages, pre-color correx and sound fix. Hopefully, by the end of the year, this film will be picked up and shown in theatres across the world for all the Le Tigre fans who, like me, long to connect with the band that filled their hearts and heads with sweetness and light.