Live Last Night: The Coathangers

The Coathangers, probably not coming back to D.C. anytime soon.

Sometimes I feel this weird obligation to go to certain shows. Last night was one of those instances. The Coathangers, a fun, all-girl punk band from Atlanta, were at the Red & the Black. There was no local support act at a club that struggles to draw on weeknights. Bad combo. Plus, people in this town will rarely take a chance on something that hasn't been given a stamp of approval by a tastemaker of note. So I wasn't too surprised when I was one of just seven people there to watch the band. Yes, seven.

To their credit, the Coathangers made it work. And it really shouldn't have worked. The band plays the most basic brand of garage-synth-punk, getting by on energy and attitude more than anything else. It's party music with a hint of a confrontational streak, as evidenced by songs like "Shut the [Expletive] Up" and "Don't Touch My [Expletive]." But it's hard to take on the role of party starter when there are barely enough people for a decent game of Trivial Pursuit and there's really no point in agitating the handful of people who actually paid money to see you play.

So the Coathangers found a happy medium, playing with enough energy to keep the handful of us - and probably more importantly, themselves - entertained. Keyboardist Candice Jones gleefully hopped around her corner of the stage while providing the majority of the hooks. Drummer Stephanie Luke bashed away with abandon and Julia Kugel screamed her vocals without hesitation. The best moments came when all four (fourth being bassist Meredith Franco) sang in unison, creating a girl-punk chaos that I've enjoyed by similar bands like Mika Miko, the Rondelles and Le Tigre.

The big question to emerge from the show was one that I've grappled with on similar evenings. How do you act as an observer when you aren't merely an audience member, but almost the entire audience? Do you whoop it up a little extra between songs? Or does that feel patronizing? Do you stand right near the front of the stage? Do you feel kind of like a creep when you request "Nestle in My Boobies" at the end of the set? (That wasn't me, by the way, but one of the other H Street Seven. In his defense, it is one of the band's better songs.) Do you talk to the band after the show and apologize for the lack of attendance? I ended up doing what I always do - standing by myself in the middle-back, nursing a single beer, not saying a word to anyone, and leaving right after the set was done.

By David Malitz |  March 7, 2008; 5:23 PM ET Live Last Night
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I usually do the same if I go solo to a small show. It's easier to talk to them afterwards if you've got other friends there.

Posted by: Hemisphire | March 7, 2008 6:27 PM

Heckle loudly, and above all, keep it on a personal level.

Posted by: pants | March 13, 2008 3:18 PM

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