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Review: San Antonio's Fea Seizes on Video Streaming and Delivers Riot Grrrl Punch With Bikini Kill Set 

click to enlarge JAIME MONZON
  • Jaime Monzon
As pandemic grips the land, many bands and artists are migrating online to reach fans, and perhaps even earn a few bucks. San Antonio's all-female punk quartet Fea is no exception.

For many bands, livestream performances mean unusual covers, and Fea took that inspiration and added its own Chicana spin. On Tuesday night, the band played an online set via the StageIt platform as “Bikini Mata”— meaning it played Bikini Kill covers en Español.

The band hit the “stage” with early Bikini Kill tune “Demirep.” Vocalist Letty Morales channeled a riot grrrl vibe with a Femme Fatale t-shirt and bright red lipstick, spitting the lyrics. Next up was “R.I.P.” from the Bikini Kill’s swan song, Reject All-American. That album had more of an indie vibe than Bikini Kill’s early work, and it made a good fit with Fea’s vibe and Morales’s voice.

The songs were highlighted with videos collages of cut-up images that played behind the band and in brief snippets between songs.

After that introduction, it was back to the early stuff with the catchy “Carnival” and the confrontational “Suck My Left One,” which brought the angry-but-bratty vibe associated with the riot grrrl movement. Bassist Jenn Alva and drummer Phanie Diaz, the band’s co-founders and former members of Girl in a Coma, capably held down the low end with simple punk rock aplomb.

The highlight of the set was “Rebel Girl,” arguably Bikini Kill’s signature tune and its most accessibly rock ‘n’ roll. The band recorded as a single featuring Joan Jett, with whom Fea also has a history. Fea had no trouble doing the tune justice, leaving the title en Ingles so everyone could sing along.

Before Fea finished the set with the exclamation point of “Double Dare Ya,” they presented a longer video that featured several female underground rock icons, including Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, Babes in Toyland's Kat Bjelland and Jett herself.

At that point, the band switched gears, with Morales joking the members hadn’t practiced the Fea tunes after concentrating so hard on Bikini Kill. They started the second half of the performance with “Itch.”

Fea’s originals were an interesting contrast with Bikini Mata. The influence was clear, as Diaz has spoken about her love for the band. However, Fea’s music reflected a more conventional rock approach as well, particularly in Sofi Lopez’s guitar lines, which were much more complex than the simplistic Bikini Kill numbers.

The band continued with “Stuck Like You,” a melodic selection comparable in placement and tone to “R.I.P.” from the first half. “Merde” followed with a more traditional punk sound and Diaz double-timing it in the verse and a fiery lead from Lopez.

The set closed with “Ya Se” and “Feminazi” for an old-school punk vibe. Having roared through 11 songs in under 40 minutes, no one could accuse the band of deviating from the punk rock rulebook.

The band members hung out after the set, standing in front of the green screen. They shouted out fans from other towns and answered a few questions. They were emphatic that they are rescheduling dates clobbered by COVID-19. Morales noted that she was “so into” translating the songs that she dreamed about Pearl Jam in Spanish (“that was weird”). The evening closed with a singing of “Happy Birthday” for Morales and Alva. Plus cake, of course.

“I wish y’all were here and I wish we were there,” Morales noted most of the way through the set, marking the only reference to the quarantine. There was no roar from a crowd, but it’s hardly an assumption that viewers agreed.

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