The Coathangers Leave The Bowery Ballroom BreathlessJuly 13th, 2016
The Coathangers – The Bowery Ballroom – July 12, 2016
The crowd just eats this up: this, by the all-female punk threesome the Coathangers, which involves quirk, dark humor, reckless abandon and, occasionally, a rubber ducky; this, which has been a growing brand for years now among lovers of infectious, furious punk-rock energy; this, which loved hard on propulsive beats of all kinds: rat-a-tat, chug, boom-chick, a little swing; this, which slayed a Tuesday night Bowery Ballroom crowd and was the fastest, most delirious hour of stage time this writer can remember in a while—the equivalent of being slapped around and then smooched with a wry smile.
The Atlanta-based band, which includes Meredith Franco on bass and vocals, Julia Kugel on guitar and vocals, and Stephanie Luke on drums and vocals, allegedly started as a joke nearly 10 years ago—their name a wildly inappropriate, purposefully vulgar reference for an all-female band. If this is, or really was ever, a joke, it’s a great one. These three have found the heart of the Venn diagram where danceable punk meets subversive rock and roll meets earnestly delivered songs called “Squeeki Tiki” and “Don’t Touch My Shit”—long may it play out. Sometime around the release of their 2014 album, Suck My Shirt, they found themselves hammering away at what they’re good at, without ever losing the wink-and-gun humor in songs that, on any given night, might be about punching someone in the, y’know, twat. (You won’t hear it on their albums, but you get the feeling they could write a damn good bubblegum pop hook too.)
Last night, a throttling hour left us with much of their recent album, Nosebleed Weekend, squeezed rubber-ducky sound in “Tiki” and all. That was the set-closer, actually, before it came whipcrack crowd-rousing numbers like “Make It Right” (Luke’s raspier vocals in gnarlier contrast to Kugel’s chirpier vocals) and “Watch Your Back,” which indulged in more of an art-punk sensibility with its balance of dynamics vs. straight pow-pow-pow. Not that straight pow-pow-pow is anything less than needed in these fraught times. In the last quarter of their set, the band began to get nuts, switching instruments and baiting the crowd. Franco handed her bass to Kugel, moved to lead vocals and then executed an exceptional stage dive all while singing “Nestle in My Boobies,” which goes back to 2007. She next went to bass, bringing drummer Luke out to prowl the front of the stage. Franco and Luke returned to their instruments and that’s when Kugel went not for guitar but for the ducky—“Tiki” time. Sometime before that had also come the band’s sparking cover of Gun Club’s “Sex Beat.” You’ll have to consult a printed set list to know exactly when—we were captivated by their blur of aggression and there wasn’t much time to catch a breath. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson