Saturday’s Coattails release party was loud as hell, and as fun as it was loud. My photographer for that event, coworker Cody Mason, was also my ride there. Cody picked me up, NPR blaring, and we whipped down to the Mohawk for the night’s show. I shoved my earplugs in, shouted at the doorman for a while before either of us could understand the other, and finally we were let inside.
The Mohawk indoor venue is probably the smallest I’ve been in. The entrance on the indoor side, as opposed to the large open walkway that sits between the indoor and the outdoor stages, is a small doorway. Once you get through there, then you have to squeeze your way through the throng, so you better make sure to keep your spot. Of course, the size of the indoor stage is not a bad thing; rather, it lends to the intimacy of the experience. I felt very close to everyone who performed.
Löwin, the first band scheduled to play the indoor stage, was a blast. Brilliant work from the whole band and powerful vocals culminated in a solid performance that had everyone in the room moving and shaking. Sara Houser, their vocalist, expertly conveyed the notion of the “duality of fierce and gentle with the idea that the two sentiments are not mutually exclusive” that they talk about on their website. The aforementioned intimacy of the venue meant that all the heavy drumming, speed rhythm guitar work, and Houser’s dark voice, deadened by the earplugs, was almost felt more than heard.
Levees is a band that focuses heavily on their appearance as well as their performance. The quartet, two guitarists with a drummer and bassist, dress in all black. They wear black boots. They wear tight black pants. They wear black dress shirts. The only deviation from this monochromaticism is the splash of silver some wore around their necks. The lead guitarist wore a two collar clips (wolf heads, I believe) connected by a chain, and the bassist wore a silver bolo tie fastened with a cow skull. Their sound mirrors their macabre dress. I describe the dark lyrics and dreadful tones as “Evil Rockabilly.” They played the four songs on their Levees EP as well as a few covers, most notably Jeff Buckley’s “Alligator Wine,” a haunting track whose menace was amplified by the crazed eyes of vocalist Kody Anderson. Kody and his brother Kyle, the lead guitarist, both danced like they were possessed for the whole set, exuding a pervasive energy that amplified the already animated crowd, pushing them into a fervor. When they were done, the sweaty, infernal quartet climbed off stage and got me to sign up for their mailing list, something you should do if you want to snag a free download of their EP.
Finally, it was time for the Coattails to perform. I’ve written about them and their new album before, and after Saturday’s show I learned that I was appropriately excited. Their performance of all 11 vocal tracks from their new self-titled album, though lengthy, was a brilliant set. Frontman Damien Howard sang his damn heart out. The heart behind his lyrics provided an emotional experience that was very different from the aggression behind Levees. The southern rock team drew everyone even closer to the stage than they had been all night, so that some of us could have reached out and slapped Howard’s shoes. Michael Martinez, as I mentioned last time, had some ridiculous keyboard solos that had me screaming at him; Howard tore it up on the guitar; Marcus Clark, bassist, played it cool and laid it down the whole night, and Eitel Colberg looked like he was about to punch holes in his drumkit.
I had a chance to speak with Colberg after his set before the next band stated playing. Upstairs on the outdoor balcony, I asked Colberg how he felt about the show. He explained to me that, while the show went really well, he was worried when they started, calling their initial setup “really hectic.” Of the show, Colberg said, “I think we did really well tonight. I’m happy to have gotten this album out.”
We talked about how excited he and the rest of Coattails was to have a great bassist like Clark on the team. “You know, I think it’s really just so great to have a bassist like Marcus that’s a bassist first, and not a guitarist first and bassist second. A pocket bassist like him really fills out the sound,” Colberg said.
SURLY GATES SHUTS IT DOWN
The final performance was that of Surly Gates, an Austin psychedelic prog group that really knew what it was doing. Surly Gates’ performance was marked by classic psych guitar work featuring heavy distortion, unusual lyrical subject matter, and their excellent album art projected onto the white screen behind them. At this point in the show, a lot of people had cleared out. While the Coattails performed the room was so full I could hardly breath, but by the time Surly Gates had climbed on stage, the room was much more comfortable.