Over the Weekend: The Coathangers at Bryan Street Tavern

The Coathangers, Leg Sweeper, Catching Chloe and Chicken & Whiskey
Bryan Street Tavern
Friday, July 15, 2011

Better than: Staying home and getting yelled at by my wife

A hot and bothered collection of punks and other assorted riff raff made their way down to old East Dallas Friday night to catch a killer quadruple bill of local and national talent.

Headlining the evening were Atlanta's The Coathangers, a feisty and somewhat frightening all-female punk band who arrived at the venue already in a foul mood. "It's been a shitty day," said guitarist Julia Kugal. "And I can't believe we are going on so late."

More on that later.

But before The Coathangers even got close to hitting the stage, those lucky enough to arrive early were treated to not one, not two, but three quality supporting acts.

First up were Florida's Chicken & Whiskey, a burly and unsightly trio who proceeded to surprise the hell out of me. Whether it was a clever original like "Spinach and Pizza" or a spot on cover of The Misfits' "Attitude," these three dudes brought the party to the house. I've always claimed that ugly bands make the best music and Chicken & Whiskey proved my point.

Next up were Dallas' Catching Chloe, another all-female outfit who were clearly stuck in the 80's. Not that such is a bad thing, mind you as even the band's cover of Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop" came off as endearing. Catching Chloe is clearly a group of gals who love the Go-Go's and are quite content reproducing that band's sound and spirit.

Then it was time for Leg Sweeper to entertain the growing audience and Taylor Stolly and Justin "Boots" Gomez proved to be more than up the task. Setting up on the floor in front of the stage, this mighty duo actually played a great set and sped up the night's proceedings. Not an easy feat.

Finally, a few minutes before midnight, The Coathangers trudged on stage.

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Earlier in the evening, word came down that Coathangers bassist Meredith Franco became ill during the trip from New Orleans to Dallas and had to perform the band's entire set sitting on her amp. No worries, however, as the rest of the band picked up the slack and put on a serious display of punk angst.

Yet at first, Kugal and crew appeared as if they didn't want to play at all. "Can we turn these lights down?" she bemoaned as a crowd of about 75 made their way around the small stage.

But once the lighting and other issues were worked out, The Coathangers began to warm up, at least a bit.

Beginning with "Johnny" from The Coathangers' most recent effort, Larceny & Old Lace, the band grimaced and growled its way through the evening and early into Saturday morning. After each song, the approval from the grimy throng seemed to grow. Feeding off this adulation, the gals finally relaxed and their racket intensified.

"Hurricane," the best cut off the new album, came across like a freight train as drummer/singer Stephanie Luke sounded more like a caged animal than just a pissed off punk. Indeed, Luke's more of a shouter than a singer and the coherence factor certainly jumped with Kugal took over vocal duties.

But either way, sometimes there is nothing better than music this raw. The Coathangers are the striking antithesis of any notion of political correctness as the song "Shut the Fuck Up" clearly demonstrated.

By set's end, both band and crowd were all smiles. Music played without any hint of polish or pretention often has that effect.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I truly dig rash amateurism and The Coathangers fit the bill perfectly. Music this chaotic cannot be played with much thought about production values.

Random Note: Due to the members of Chicken & Whiskey waiting for some friends to make it to the show, things got started later than anticipated. This short delay (and Catching Chloe's lengthy set) pissed off the visiting headliners. Pacing outside, several member of The Coathangers verbally expressed their desire to hit the stage.

By the way: More shows at Bryan Street Tavern, please. Good food, decent sound and a ton of seedy ambiance make the venue a proper place for the DIY crowd. This show brought back fond memories of such legendary area nightspots as the Hot Klub and Zero's Lounge.

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