The Coathangers With Nothing and Cutter Trees, Dallas Thursday, February 19, 2015
By Anita Riot
The Coathangers are no strangers to Dallas. The ladies in the Atlanta-based punk trio (formerly a quartet) pass through town often enough that you could almost set a watch to it, but that never seems to dampen their enthusiasm for playing here. With their Red Bull Sound Select show at Trees making for a free (with RSVP) appearance, it was a gimme that local music fans would respond in kind.
Red Bull presented their typical mix of a variety show, some decent marketing and a killer poster, all under the curation of Parade of Flesh. Right outside the door, Sound Select reps went down the line handing out nametags printed with dubious reasons to be guilty, like "Guyliner" and "Love." I was handed one that proclaimed my misdeed as "Middle Parts."
The crowd was mixed, but skewed toward a younger audience. By 9:00 the large venue had filled out nicely inside with barely any room at all out on the smoking patio, where two food trucks had been squeezed in to accommodate any hunger pangs. Cutter played to a rather subdued audience who mostly bobbed their heads as they soaked in the short set of sultry new wave beats.
Then came a bit of surprise: After Cutter, the first of what was supposed to be two openers, on came the headliners. The Coathangers wasted no time blasting out two new tracks from their recent release, Suck My Shirt. Continuing their Bratmobile-esque approach to super fun riffs and slap-you-in-the-face-for-giggles-but-I-might-also-be-pissed lyrics, the group keeps the pogo-ers going. Their spunky stage presence makes you wonder why you ever took yourself too seriously, or anything for that matter--except having a fun. Even as they moved onto the seductive stalker noise ballad, "Trailer Park Boneyard," the pit kept on bouncing.
Though they're missing the keyboards from their previous albums, the Coathangers' sound doesn't lack any energy. Drummer Stephanie Luke's (aka Rusty Coathanger) signature growl did have to be turned up, as it was a little drowned out by all the rock 'n' roll they beat out of their instruments. The band keeps a genuine presence with the fans, smiling back and dedicating "Sicker" to some lucky new friends named Sharon and Sarah. They even included a cheeky cover of the Gun Club's "Sex Beat," which they recently recorded for their split 7-inch with These Arms are Snakes.
They did their usual instrument switcheroo for "Shut Up" and some older diddies, including the entertainingly violent "Johnny." In another, bassist Meredith Franco (aka Minnie Coathanger), who was handling only the vocals at the time, decided to drop the mic mid-song and crowd surf. Shortly after, in a bizarre move, the sound guy turned all the large speakers over the stage off for the last two songs. All that was heard came from the bands' amps and monitors, forcing the girls to strain their voices even more to be heard.
The girls' playfulness extended even beyond the stage. At the merch table, which bore a white shirt with a smoking pot leaf wearing oversized shades made of hanger wire, a cassette of their newest album and the standard CDs and vinyl, Luke bargained with folks on prices. When asked how much a 12-inch was, she grinned back with, "How much you got?" After complimenting me on my sweater, she bundled a shirt, the multi-colored split 7-inch and a 12-inch of Larceny and Old Lace for just 30 bones.
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With genuine sincerity, Luke explained that Dallas is hands down the Coathangers' favorite place to play inTexas, hands down. (I bet you tell all the girls that.) She went on about how Austin gets a lot of credit for their big music scene, but they love coming back to Dallas because their fans have a more enthusiastic energy that she couldn't put a finger on. Perhaps there's a down-home connection coming from that Dirty South, yeah? Or maybe it's just that we never take a good stage dive for granted.
Either way, the energy was left in a bit of a curious spot by the fact that there was still another band left to play after the Coathangers. The last-minute lineup switch left Nothing's ear-numbing feedback to round out the night. Eventually heavy shoegaze ensued that made me expect a cover of "Stars" by Hum to begin at any moment, though I'm undecided if that would have made the set more enjoyable. After the joyful energy of the Coathangers, though, it was almost an anticlimax. They were just too tough an act to follow.
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