Harriet Kaplan

Babes in Toyland @ The Roxy – 02/12/2015

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541633_10206025784832930_1250612246753588658_nBased on a sold-out show at The Roxy Thursday night February 12, the public clearly hadn’t forgotten Babes In Toyland regardless of the fact the original lineup hadn’t played live together since 1996. Filling the concert floor were people of all ages and generations actively engaged and excitedly holding up their cell phones recording the show and taking photos of the band. They pumped their fists and fingers in the air in unison to their favorite songs, cheering loudly and swaying and moving around to the music. Most were wearing T-shirts and jeans, some in the trademark nostalgic baby doll dresses and other clad in 50s styled rocker garb and sporting pinup looks.

One fan observed the enthusiastic audience resembled extras from the seminal 90s movie Reality Bites. The lasting influence and legacy of Babes In Toyland was felt in other ways as well. Several musicians, who are their peers as well their fans, were also in attendance including Exene Cervenka of X, Patty Schemel, all of L7, the Melvins’ Buzz Osborne and Dale Drover and former Melvins’ bass player Kevin Rutmanis. Tom Morello introduced them with a ballsy, impassioned speech that summed up Babes in Toyland’s legacy to date, essence and journey – both personally and creatively. It’s was obvious Morello has a special affinity for the Babes given Rage Against the Machine played with them on the 1993 Lollapalooza tour and their relationship that has continued, endured and deepened over time. He described the band in part as “anti-social socialites” who were riot girls have now become riot moms. These lifestyle changes and the ensuing maturation that accompanied it, hasn’t diluted the potency of their songs. Nor has the emotional and visceral impact and connection their legion of hardcore fans share with them and vica versa.

This powerful set served notice the band is still as relevant and important as they were when first burst onto the scene in the late 1980s. The ultimate statement was letting their body of work do the talking as they quickly got down to the business of bringing some of material from their influential three albums (13 songs total including: “Bruised Violet,” “Handsome and Gretel,” “He’s My Thing,” “Swamp Pussy,”  “Spit to See the Shine” and “Sweet 69.”) back to life in all its hardcore intensity and vibrant sonic glory over a fast-paced, no-frills 45-minute set. Singer/guitarist Kat Bjelland, bassist Maureen Herman and Lori Barbero on drums lead the charge delivering aggressive, no-holds barred alternative rock/punk music that was jarring, compelling, liberating and cathartic. For a reunion show, it went far beyond expectations in its impact and meaning and seemed to lay the groundwork for more in the future.

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