The babes are back. After a long hiatus ending in two reunion shows and a European tour announcement, Minneapolis grunge trio Babes in Toyland returned with an intimate show Feb. 10 in Palm Springs, Calif. It was, as Andrea Swensson points out in her review, “their first official show in 14 years and first show as that particular threesome since 1996.”
After their turn in the desert, the band headed to Los Angeles two days later for a sold-out gig at the Roxy. The much-anticipated show attracted an all-star audience and national media attention for the trio who rose from cult heroines of the Minneapolis music scene to become one of the most influential indie bands of the ’80s and ’90s.
Rolling Stone said the 45 minutes the group spent playing their classic songs brought the crowd back to a post-punk era of boys in skirts and girls in combat boots, while simultaneously nodding to the band’s growth. “‘Bruise Violet’ received some of the loudest cheers of the night, and the imagery of title speaks to the band’s struggles as musicians and women: Like the nuances of discolored flesh that form a bruise heals, Babes in Toyland’s career has contained beauty, injury, pain and resilience. The band has clearly grown—just not into something sedate.”
The reunion wasn’t just for the band, but also for its friends and fans, L.A. Weekly wrote. Singer/guitarist Kat Bjelland, drummer Lori Barbero, and bassist Maureen Herman met their followers’ demands with ferocity: “Herman and Barbero held down the rhythms with a heavy metal-ish intensity and force. Their contributions to the music make for a solid base, but it’s relatively simple and raw in many ways. The beautiful complexity and brutal heart of Babes is and always was Kat Bjelland. The contrast of her cute persona, moody stage presence and primal sound was as disconcerting as it was fascinating when the band broke onto the music scene in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Decades later, it’s what a lot of people still remember.”
What’s next for the trio? They’re headed to Europe in May for a U.K. tour and a stop at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona.
In other Babes in Toyland (and comeback) news, drummer Lori Barbero made an appearance at newly reunited Sleater-Kinney’s Valentine’s Day show at First Avenue. When opener Lizzo performed “Batches & Cookies,” she, Barbero and GRRRL PRTY cohort Sophia Eris donned Glam Doll aprons and threw actual cookies into the audience.
Hailey Colwell is a journalism major at the University of Minnesota and a co-director of Theatre Corrobora.