Live Review: The Coathangers, Ditz + Heirloom at Studio 9294

This is my first time at newish London venue Studio 9294 (it opened in May 2018) which is three stops on the Overground from Dalston Kingsland. It has the feel of a slightly less wide 100 Club with higher ceilings and both door staff (security and box office) and bar staff were welcoming and friendly.

There are two Brighton-based support acts tonight and first on is Heirloom. They are Jane Rivers (vocals and guitar), Jade Taaffe (bass), Christopher Hallen (guitar), Ben Dawson (keyboards) and Nick McGregor (drums). Prior to the gig I kept seeing them referred to as gloom-pop which I think is a poor descriptor. There might be sombre elements to their sound but the interplay between male and female voices is well used and it’s like a buffet of Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Lou Reed and Pete Burns from Dead or Alive. There was charisma and style in both their look and music and I think they’ll go from strength to strength.

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In stark contrast Ditz are the answer to the planet’s energy crisis. Forget solar or wind power you could wire up this band and power the country. They are Cal (Vocals), Caleb (Bass), Anton (Guitar), Archie (Guitar) and Jack (Drums) and the way they amble on to the stage belies the power that explodes from them when they start playing. Singer Cal is the spear tip, prowling and talk-singing; sometimes in the audience, sometimes kneeling in communion with the vocal effects pedal. The rest of the band jerk and leap like the electricity is plugged into them not their instruments and the whole effect is a hurricane riding an angry bull through a lightning storm. What really impressed me was how the bass provides clarity and tune allowing the guitars to add a wash of distortion; like painting with gravel. This wall of controlled noise is held together by Jack on drums who is so full on he broke a snare.

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After the feedback has finally stopped reverberating the venue was now full and ready for The Coathangers. Julia Kugel-Montoya (guitar, vocals) Meredith Franco (bass, vocals) and Stephanie Luke (drums, vocals) arrive on stage in glittering hooded gold outfits looking like disco Satanists. They open with ‘Lithium’ from the new album The Devil You Know a drug-lullaby that is the calm before the storm. Drums burst through the final notes and then we’re picked up, strapped to a rocket and fired towards the end of the evening. The sound from three people is full and crackles with controlled energy. They work as a unit knowing when to flex and change the shape of a song. Meredith looks so calm playing beautiful bass runs and half-chords that the depth of her playing allows Julia to dance between the bass mixing up power chords and sharp riffs. Everything driven by Stephanie who is full on playing at speeds only previously achieved by the Ramones. Her growling, powerhouse of a voice is a fantastic contract to the often-haunting touch of Julia, however, Julia can also punch out a cry that stretches the eardrums to breaking point.

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They tear through the new album, the highlights for me being ‘Stranger Danger’ and ‘F the NRA’, and  pack in some previous album crowd-pleasers such as ‘Squeeky Tiki’ and the song that hooked me into them: ‘Nosebleed Weekend’. The sign of a truly together band they added numbers on the fly, changed round instruments near the end and seemed to communicate telepathically throughout. It was a rare evening with all three acts holding their own and giving me lots of new music to listen to and with our ears ringing my friend and I left the venue on a massive high having come through the other side of a glorious gold lamé supernova.

Review and photography by Paul F Cook

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