Why aren’t The Coathangers better known? It’s a question that occurs whilst writing this review. Perhaps, with their self-titled debut coming along in 2006, they emerged at a time when bands were pretty uniformly all-male and ironically pro-choice band names were unheard of. Whatever the case, it’s led them here, to a smallish loft venue in Liverpool on a Tuesday, calling in support from two of the city’s emerging punk acts.
Piss Kitti take to the stage by degrees, with guitarist Dominic, bassist Quinn and drummer Daniel already onstage and set up before lead singer Esme followss. The group are joyously unrefined and uncoordinated, whilst the set is shallow fried DIY punk – all power chords and burps down the mic, shrieks and thuds. But there’s social commentary too: “We always get told off for doing this one because it’s about the lad bands round here that are absolute melts”, Esme announces before the band crash into ‘Bore’. It’s ironic, and perhaps deliberate, that it has the best chorus of the set.
After Salt the Snail tell us “We’ve got absolutely nothing to say”, we wait for what seems an age for The Coathangers to appear. When they do, they creep on in darkness – so dark, in fact, that the gold lamé hooded dresses worn by all three of them are quite startling when the lights come up. It’s an eerie opening too, with jungle sounds and the bassless lilt of ‘Lithium’ and its tale of medication, sung sweetly by singer/guitarist Julia.
In some ways, it belies the rest of the show, most of which flits between Julia’s vocals and the gritty Wanda Jackson pipes belonging to drummer Stephanie. The set is largely taken from new album The Devil You Know, with several album track highlights that reflect the band’s duality: ‘5 Farms’, a straight up garage slammer that meanders into swing; ‘Stranger Danger’, equal parts creepy and bluesy; ‘Hey Buddy’, a maraca-backed cool AF 70s rocker.
But The Coathangers are more in-sync than in-opposition: bassist Meredith takes lead vocals on ‘Memories’, and towards the end of the set, the band have all swapped roles, with each taking a turn on lead vocals and drums. At one point, the band finish a song and collapse into laughter. It’s an insight into Coathanger World, and helps explain the trio’s willingness to go on making music, for over ten years and across six albums. “We’ve been on tour for five months!”, offers Stephanie, by way of explanation.
There’s a smattering of older tracks for the diehards in the room – the titular track from previous LP Nosebleed Weekend, its lead single and the band’s signature tune ‘Make It Right’, and ‘Shut Up’ from 2014’s Suck My Shirt – before the band close with fan favourite ‘Squeeki Tiki’, featuring Julia playing the song’s hook on a dog’s squeaky chew toy, before they strut off, those dresses flashing gold. There’s no encore, after a set with very little bantering with the crowd and no endless tune-ups. Just 45 minutes of pop-rock, garage and Runaways-style punk performed with a minimum of fuss. It’s worth its wait.