The Coathangers @ Bar Le Ritz – 14th April 2019

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The Coathangers at Bar Le Ritz

I am ashamed to admit that up until a few months ago, I had never heard of The Coathangers.  When their show announcement appeared on my newsfeed, before even hearing a single song, I had decided I would check them out simply based on their name.

We’ve all been sucked into that YouTube vortex where one click leads to another and somehow your “music research” takes you on five-hour “LA Ink” binge, but The Coathangers have a ton of fantastic music videos.  Which brought me back to that question of why had I never heard of them before? (Oh yeah, songs like “F the NRA” aren’t usually played on the radio).

So, if you’re wondering what the name “The Coathangers” signifies, go with your gut or lower.  If it makes you cringe, then they have succeeded in representing the essence of punk rock. Formed in Atlanta, Georgia in 2006, featuring singer/guitarist Julia Kugel-Montoya (Crook Kid Coathanger), bassist Meredith Franco (Minnie Coathanger) and singer/drummer Stephanie Luke (Rusty Coathanger), these women are the real deal.

Not since I saw The Clash perform at The Verdun Auditorium in 82 have I felt this specific kind of rush.  As soon as they strutted onto the stage at Bar Le Ritz, I knew. The venue was too small for their powerful sound and manic energy.  

The Coathangers in Montreal

They opened the set with “Lithium” from their latest album “The Devil You Know” which was released on March 8th 2019.  (It’s their 7th album if you include their live album released last year).  The slow and haunting track showcased Julia’s sweet voice while Meredith and Stephanie harmonized.  The crowd was immediately transfixed and ready for whatever was going to happen.

The ladies switched places effortlessly, trading instruments, each member taking turns on drums, vocals, and guitar, feeding off their supernatural collective energy.  Nobody showed off or hogged the spotlight. (Actually, there was no spotlight, as Julia told me after the show, they prefer to perform in the dark.

In between songs and shots of whiskey, Julia explained the inspiration for their matching gold sequinned, hoodie dresses was their love of “Game of Thrones.”

Although the crowd was a little subdued, they lit up when the band performed songs from the album “Nosebleed Weekend” (2016).    I can’t decide if it was her perfectly aged rasp or her frenetic drumming but Stephanie kicked the shit out of “Down Down” and “Make It Right.” (Think Joan Jett after smoking an entire pack of Camels Unfiltered). “Watch Your Back” featuring Stephanie and Julia sharing vocals reminded me of the B-52’s (also from Georgia).  Julia’s exaggerated whine and Dick Dale surfer riffs combined with Stephanie’s hard-hitting style reminded me why I was drawn to this style of music so many years ago.

The Coathangers are my favorite type of artists.  They are calling people out on their shit. And not everyone can express anger and disdain in such an entertaining and brilliant way.  When Stephanie growls;

“Hey buddy why you messing with me
Call me a faggot then you call me a sleaze…”
(Hey Buddy from The Devil You Know)
I’m intoxicated by her delicious rage.

And when Stephanie murmurs;
“Summer stole the perfume from my eyes”
(Perfume from The Devil You Know)
I’m infatuated by her sweet and salty spirit.

They closed the show with “Squeeki Tiki” which allowed Meredith’s bass skills to shine and featured the use of a squeaky toy as a musical instrument.  I dare anyone to say that their songs aren’t personal and authentic.

The Coathangers may appear impulsive and flippant but don’t let their carefree attitude fool you.  After 13 years together, these women are dedicated musicians. Their skills along with their joy and humor cannot be faked.  

I got to speak to Julia after the show and since it wasn’t planned, I was unprepared.  I totally fangirled on her and apologized for discovering the band so late. I managed to tell her that they truly looked like they were having fun on stage, she simply nodded and told me that they wouldn’t still be doing it if they didn’t enjoy it. We both agreed that the audience was way too mellow.  I was expecting a rowdier crowd but maybe it was due to the fact that it was a Sunday night and they only came on around 10:30. (There were two opening acts Big Bite and The Lonely Parade). I praised their performance and insisted that I was a true fan because I was out late on a school night.

I can’t remember half of the stuff I said because The Coathangers weren’t the only ones enjoying whiskey that night.  I do remember making her laugh, using a lot of profanity and telling her how much I enjoyed the show. I felt 15 again, not in a mid-life crisis way but in hopeful one.  Like I did when I discovered a new band and would go downtown to the record store to buy their album. I wished that I could bring The Coathangers all home with me and make them some sandwiches and talk all night,  but it was getting really late and it was a school night.

Review & photos – Annette Aghazarian

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