At the end of the Julie Ruin’s recent set at Barcelona’s Primavera Sound, frontwoman Kathleen Hanna makes for the wings, as if she’s about to let the rest of the band play out the final minutes. It seems like a strange end to her first performance on the continent in a decade, but it’s a feint: She suddenly turns, cartwheels back into the center of the stage, and lands in a perfect split. Within a few hours, a GIF of the moment is circulating online.
Not only is Hanna 46 years old (who among us can truly say they’ve ever been able to do that?), but this time last year, she was in bed, struck down again by a side-effect of Lyme disease. She’s been battling the chronic illness for years—her struggle can be seen up-close in the candid 2013 documentary The Punk Singer—and that latest relapse forced her to cancel what would have been the Julie Ruin’s debut European dates. “There was a period where I could barely do anything except paint watercolors in my journal,” she told me over the phone two weeks before the festival.