THE COATHANGERS + ARXX + PUBLIC BODY – LATEST MUSIC BAR, BRIGHTON 24.04.19
Wednesday March 24th was a massive day in my calendar and there could only be
one winner. The crucial Manchester (soccer!) derby was being played in front of a 74,431 crowd with an 8pm kick off, whilst over at The Latest Music Bar in Manchester Street, Brighton, The Coathangers had travelled 4227 miles from Atlanta, Georgia, to play in front of just over 100 people.
The Coathangers are probably the only band that I would forego a Manchester derby for, due to the distance they travelled and them being my current favourite band, so the pressure was on them to perform. My main task for the evening, apart from reviewing the gig, was to steer clear of the football result in order to watch it on catch up in the early hours of the morning blissfully unaware of the outcome. Hopefully I would have more success than The Likely Lads.
The Coathangers formed in 2006 at a small house party in Atlanta, playing live for a few of their friends as a one-off and the rest as they say is history. I arrived late to The Coathangers party only discovering them on an extremely wet and windy May night in 2017 when they played at The Printworks in Hastings. The weather was so bad that I was seriously considering not attending, but thankfully I did and my love affair with their music was instant, so much so that I travelled the two-hour journey by car to Ramsgate just five nights later to watch them play at The Music Hall. Once you have been squeaked on the head by Crook Kid Coathanger then you are hooked.
I then had to wait almost 18 months to see them play live again, this time at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar last October, when a chance meeting with Nick Linazasoro opened up the opportunity for me to accomplish my teenage ambition and to write gig reviews for What’s On at Brighton & Hove News, the next best thing to NME or Sounds, and here I am now living the dream.
The Coathangers released their sixth studio album, ‘The Devil You Know’, on March 8th and had embarked on a North American tour followed by dates in the UK and Europe to promote it. I purchased it in the limited edition (500 copies sold out) yellow with double mint green and black splatter vinyl. A very nice purchase though I did pay the price for having it imported as it got caught out by customs and I had to pay an extra £14.62 before the Post Office would hand it over to me. I have to say that it took me a couple of listens to get into it due to the subtle change in direction as the band continue to evolve, but since then it has been played to death and was well worth the surcharge.
Tonight, was my first visit to the Latest Music Bar. Situated close to the seafront with free parking from 8pm and Guinness on tap, I already had a good feeling about the evening. This was heightened further when I realised that I was stood next to Julia and Stephanie from The Coathangers as I prepared to watch the first band, Public Body.
Local band Public Body only formed last year, and this was to be the first time that I had caught them live and I was unsure what to expect as I couldn’t find much online apart from their single ‘Talking Show,’ for which the video is set in an office environment similar to that which I remember in the late 1980’s. What I was able to ascertain is that tonight was their 5th sober show; 10th Brighton show; 2nd show at Latest Music Bar; and 2nd show since Ted broke a string!
Public Body have been described as a crossover between post punk, math rock and indie rock. They certainly have an interesting, sometimes quirky sound, with spoken word vocals and I will be intrigued to see how this develops.
For a new band they have certainly found their feet quickly in what is a competitive Brighton music scene. I can see why ‘Talking Show’ was chosen as their debut single as this song really stood out for me and was the perfect end to their set.
Public Body are: Seb, Ted (some type of guitar!), Bill and Sam, though to be honest I am unsure who plays which instrument within the band.
Next up were another local band ARXX, with their brand of garage rock which even crosses over into country and western. I saw them for the first time only last month as part of the Hastings Fat Tuesday celebrations and they must have been good to have been rewarded with main support act status for tonight.
From the word go Hannah encouraged the audience to step forward, due to being on a stage much larger than that required for the duo and the lack of room on the dancefloor, she even invited the crowd to join her though this offer was declined. She made light of an awkward high five with a middle-aged male, introduced herself and Clara then got the show underway with a bang as they blasted out ‘Moments At A Time.’ Be sure to look out for the release of the video on May 1st. The next song ‘Intervention’ was introduced as being about somebody they really don’t like, to which they hoped their new American friends felt the same way as it was about their President. I reckon they were in safe territory there. ‘Tired Of You’ was a song for those of you who know a d*ckhead to which one audience member claimed to be that person. Hannah then dedicated the song to said person as it would give him an opportunity for some internal reflection. So thoughtful.
This band are so organised that they played their soon to be released new single ‘Stuck On You’ and ended the set with their follow up single ‘Iron Lung’ to be released later in the year.
In-between the songs, of which being dumped is a recurring theme, there was a lot of interaction with the audience and Hannah even tried her hand at stand-up with a pointless joke about a hedgehog! Considering they expressed their social awkwardness the first time that I saw them, they really do come across well on stage, so maybe that is part of their charm. Clara put so much effort into her drumming that she kept on having to adjust the drum kit which was sliding around on the rug on the wooden floor. She complained of being sweaty and could only think that the drum kit was suffering in the same way. She laughed it off as it just felt like she was spring cleaning. This female duo certainly put a lot of energy into their music, organisational skills, spring cleaning and audience interaction. They enjoy what they are doing, and you can’t help but like them.
Apparently, tonight’s gig at Latest Music Bar was a whole lot better than their previous experience at the venue, so it looks like things are on the up. Oh, and their music isn’t half bad either! Do yourself a favour and catch them at The Hope and Ruin on Queen’s Road, on April 29th – details HERE.
ARXX are Hannah Pidduck (vocals, guitar) and Clara Townsend (drums)
Tonight’s Setlist was:
‘Moments At A Time’, ‘Intervention’, ‘Stuck On You’, ‘Swallowed By The Sun’, ‘YGWYW’, ‘Tired Of You’, ‘Iron Lung’.
And so, to the headline act of the night. The moment I had been waiting for since purchasing my ticket at 12.06pm on March 8th had finally arrived and The Coathangers entered the stage to whoops of excitement from me, resplendent in their shimmering gold outfits, which I’m led to believe are attributed to their love of Game of Thrones.
First up was ‘Lithium’ taken from the new album with the chillingly haunting vocals and solo guitar from Julia guaranteed to make the hairs on your arm stand on end. It appeared that Steph was playing the atmospheric backing track from her mobile phone through her microphone. The wonders of modern technology. This was the perfect opening song, the calm before the storm. Then BAM! Without warning, unless of course you knew what the setlist was going to be, the tempo was raised with ‘Watch Your Back,’ the first of many songs where the band’s versatility is shown with the great use of dual vocalists, on this occasion Julia and Stephanie.
Julia told us how the song ‘Bimbo’ was about her, which is probably a bit harsh given her obvious talent. Her soapy vocals really make this song. We had the hard-hitting song about mass shootings in the U.S entitled ‘F The NRA’ about the fear mongers. The Coathangers are not scared to voice their opinion, even if it means alienating themselves from half of the American population, but then again why would they want to be associated with such people? This song has become an instant live hit and Julia was so into it that she even gave us an extra ‘F*ck the NRA’ at the end. With the current incumbent of the American Presidency they certainly have plenty of song writing material to inspire them.
One of the highlights of tonight’s show for me was ‘Wipe Out’ from the ‘Parasite’ EP, as it really showed the togetherness of the band with vocal duties shared between the three almost as if they were just having a conversation with each other. There can’t be many better jobs than being in a band with your buddies and still being so close after all these years. Even when Candice Jones left the band in 2013 it was all on amicable terms. Obviously, the masterpiece that is ‘Springfield Cannonball’ was also right up there and got the mosh pit going again though I do feel that the Brits just need to let their inhibitions go and mosh until their hearts are content.
Julia interacts with the crowd subtly. Masterfully playing her guitar, never looking down, often immersed in the moment but acknowledging the cameras and picking out the audience with her smile.
Meredith gets on with her job in a quiet unassuming manner, but don’t be fooled or underestimate her importance as her bass lines are essential to the songs. This is especially evident on ‘Squeeki Tiki’ when she is the lone guitarist for this crowd favourite. She also confidently takes on the role of lead vocalist for ‘Burn Me.’
There was a close call about twenty-five minutes into the set, when a couple of men stood behind me asked my mate the football score at which point I almost heard his reply. I feared the worst, but he told me not to worry and I got on with enjoying the gig.
The way the band members effortlessly swap roles as they reached the end of the set is tribute to how far they have come in 13 years. They don’t conform with your standard band rules swapping instruments and having a great time whilst they are at it. The Coathangers are no ordinary band and I would urge you to see them play live when they next return to our shores. Speaking with some members of the crowd afterwards, they said they had heard some of their songs, but seeing them play live transcended that which is recorded in the studio, which is an achievement in itself when you actually sit down and listen to their albums.
Over the years I have been to many gigs where the audience struggle to identify with the new songs and want to hear all the oldies, but that was definitely not the case tonight. The band played eight songs off their new album and all were well received. The balance between the old and new was pretty much perfect as they have such a strong back catalogue to fall back on.
Whilst Julia took to the drums for ‘Shut Up’ she popped off stage to get some whiskey to lubricate her vocal chords. She also requested that if anybody was up for a smoke then she would happily meet up post-gig. I can’t imagine too many bands getting that personal with their fans. Unusually Julia chose not to enter the crowd for ‘Squeeki Tiki’ which is normally a highlight of the set, but space was at a premium in this venue, so she can be excused on this occasion. Still the delivery of the song was perfect as always and a great way to end the set. The crowd though wanted more even though this is usually the finale, but tonight we were treated to a two-song encore including one of my personal favourites ‘Hurricane’. They really do know how to spoil their audience.
Watching my favourite band should have been the easiest review I have ever written, but on the contrary as it is all the harder when you are being swept along on a euphoric tidal wave that knows no bounds making it almost impossible to take everything in. How on earth is one supposed to take notes when dancing and singing along to every song? Being a 55-year-old going on 15 I bought the t-shirt, hung around afterwards to meet the band and have a chat with them, plus have my photo taken with them individually. Already I am thinking this will be my gig of the year, but hopefully there will be some other gems out there to knock me off my feet.
As I mentioned at the beginning there could only be one winner and tonight it was music, though in fairness the soccer (for our American friends) result was also pretty darn good and I even managed to avoid finding out the result.
The Coathangers are:
Julia Kugel-Montaya (Crook Kid Coathanger) Vocals and guitar
Stephanie Luke (Rusty Coathanger) Vocals and drums
Meredith Franco (Minnie Coathanger) Vocals and bass guitar
Tonight’s setlist was:
‘Lithium’, ‘Watch Your Back’, ‘Five Farms’, ‘Burn Me’, ‘Captain’s Dead’, ‘Crimson Telephone’, ‘Make It Right’, ‘Bimbo’, ‘Nosebleed Weekend’, ‘Stranger Danger’, ‘Springfield Cannonball’, ‘Down Down’, ‘F The NRA’, ‘Wipe Out’, ‘Follow Me’, ‘Step Back’, ‘Hey Buddy’, ‘Shut Up’, ‘Cheap Cheap’, ‘Squeeki Tiki’, ‘Hurricane’.
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