The Coathangers live at ‘The Latest Bar’, Brighton 24 April 2019. Review by Tony Rounce
It’s been a long time since the Coathangers came together in Atlanta, Georgia – 12 years, to be exact. In that time they have maintained unchanging membership – discounting the loss of keyboard player Candice Jones in 2013, at which point they became a trio. And it’s as a trio that they have returned to wreak powerful musical havoc on the UK, for an overdue and very welcome series of shows all over the country.
If you don’t know the Coathangers’ music, it’s certainly time you got to know. Should you be looking for comparisons (loath as I am to make them) I would say maybe the Runaways meet Kate Nash meets the Plasmatics, or thereabouts. The band is very much in its prime, and a tour-opening show at Brighton’s ‘The Latest Music Bar’ on a chilly late April evening demonstrated that, as loud women go, they are profoundly as loud as LOUD gets!
For an hour and a quarter, the Coathangers played not so much to an appreciative audience, as at it. Song after song came in waves, a relentless attack unencumbered by superfluous sonic effects and unnecessarily lengthy solos.
This is your archetypal power trio, with the emphasis entirely on ‘power’. Very tall drummer Stephanie Luke/Rusty Coathanger doesn’t so much play as punish her kit, almost stabbing its skins with her sticks at times. Luke’s snarling ‘Lemmy-with-laryngitis’ vocal style and her perpetually whirling and twirling blonde hair as she knocks seven shades of you-know-what out of her kit makes her presence at the back of the stage impossible to ignore. This visually compelling woman could play with her back to you, and you would still find it hard to focus your attention away from her. She’s flanked on either side by equally tall guitarist-singer Julia Kugel-Montoya/Crook Kid Coathanger, possessor of a choppy, compelling playing style and a voice that alternates between winsome teen queen and howling banshee, and quietly confident pocket rocket Meredith Franco/Minnie Coathanger on bass, who offsets the larger-than-life stage presence of her two pals.
Unfortunately someone else got to the set list before I did, so I can’t present you with detailed analysis of what was played and in what order – but, from memory and a quick skim through the CD prior to writing this, the 20-plus song set (with encores!) included just about and probably all of their recently released seventh album The Devil You Know plus a generous helping of their extensive back catalogue – all performed at beyond-maximum volume, and with unrelenting cheerful aggression. Between-song chatter was kept to a minimum in order to cram as much music in as possible. Given that we don’t get to see the Coathangers every week, it was a social nicety worth sacrificing.
There was a point, roughly halfway through the set, when the trio played a blistering ‘F*** The NRA’ off the new album to a tumultuous response – and suddenly everything seemed to shift up a gear or two, and become even more exciting than it already was. As the set moved towards its conclusion the three women began a round of musical chairs with first Luke strapping on Kugel-Montoya’s guitar and taking over Blanco’s mic while K-M manned the drumkit and sang. She reclaimed her guitar and Bianco moved behind the drums for yet more outrageously loud fun and frolic. The evening ended with a well-lubricated K-M (who had been keeping her voice oiled with a by-then-fairly empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s) audaciously asking if anyone had any marijuana they would like to share with her (I would like to think she found a volunteer…) and a rapid disappearance into the dressing room that nobody really was ready to see. They had worked hard for their money. I doubt if anyone present felt short changed, especially when the undercard also included never less than brilliant local heroes, ARXX.
The Coathangers are touring the EU this month. By the time you read it they will likely as not be on the continent, which means you may well have missed them. If you can’t catch this phenomenal band this time, do yourself a favour – go and buy/stream the new album and as much of their catalogue as you can find, and learn all the songs in readiness for their next tour.
You’ll be sorry if you don’t.