The Coathangers: Soup Kitchen, Manchester – live review
The Coathangers | Mold
Soup Kitchen, Manchester
29th April 2019
It’s a Monday night and Mold, who are opening tonight’s gig, have temporarily lost their drummer. Apparently he has sustained a serious head wound and is not available to play tonight. The two remaining members have managed to locate a temporary drummer, who they have daubed in their signature Kiss/Marilyn Manson style face paint, and he has learnt their set in 15 minutes flat. Which is why they take to the stage at 8pm instead of 7:45pm.
Mold play long, guitar dominated, spiralling, doomy noise rock, with occasional forays into angular, jerky, shouty punk. They attract a small but enthusiastic local following but (possibly due to their appalling bad luck tonight) they don’t really engage with the audience and it feels more like watching a practice room jam session than a gig.
The Coathangers are from Atlanta, Georgia, have a song that appears to be called ‘Fuck the NRA’, and take to the stage in matching gold spangly mini dresses with built in hoods. As she takes her seat, drummer Stephanie Luke (Rusty Coathanger) turns to the audience with a glint in her eye and roars ‘ALRIGHT MOTHERFUCKERS!’ It is not so much a question as a promise.
It’s a set of thrashy garage rock, girl group pensiveness, sass, and jump up and down shouty punk rock. The bare walls of the Soup Kitchen lend themselves well in ambience and aesthetic to this feast of garage punk pop. Up front people are dancing wildly, someone plays enthusiastic air drums, and fun is clearly being had.
Halfway through the set, a man who has been standing directly next to the stage heads past me and makes for the bar. When he returns with his pint, his place by the stage has been filled by two young women, who are dancing, lost in the music. From behind them, he leans forward and whispers something in the ear of one of them and she stops dancing, moves to the side, and lets him past, making very conciliatory gestures with her hands. He resumes his position by the stage, placing his pint on the stage, next to the monitor. The young woman, now behind him, does not resume dancing.
Singer/guitarist Julia Kugel (Crook Kid Coathanger) has a range of singing styles, from coy Betty-Boop-meets-Kathleen-Hanna girl group voice (perhaps best showcased on the satirical ‘Bimbo’) to punk rock Ronnie-Spector-meets-Zooey-Deschanel lower register growl. I’m on the wrong side of the stage to see much of Meredith Franco (Minnie Coathanger) on bass, but I have a clear view of Stephanie Luke on the drums, enough to judge that she is in the classic lineage of full on superhuman singing drummers, growling and bashing the shit out of her kit to the extent that she loses a stick at one point.
Later in the set they all swap instruments and when it’s Stephanie’s turn to sing and dance, she goes berserk. I can see her fronting a hardcore band with ease. Watching her is like watching Gail Greenwood playing bass with Belly before she joined L7: It’s not that you think they might have got lost and joined the wrong band, you just know that the power is there to do so much more.
As the lights go up at the end of the set, I spot the young woman who had the altercation earlier. She looks about sixteen. She is not smiling as she leaves the venue.
The Coathangers album, The Devil You Know, is out now. Their final UK tour date is 1st May after which they are touring Europe. You can follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and they also have a website