I arrived at 7:15 PM to a sparsely populated room in Hamden, CT’s The Space to see The Coathangers, Past Lives, and The Thermals, one of Manic Production’s recent spring shows. Most of the tables were taken but there were far fewer people there than I had expected. I’d soon eat my words though, because by the time The Thermals went onstage, there wasn’t much standing room left in the venue. As I looked around, waiting for the show to start, I noticed the vintage, retro-inspired deco of The Space, and how the stage looked as though it had been placed in the middle of someone’s living room. The theme compliments the variety of shows held in the venue, from ska to indie to folk and everything in between.
The show was set to start at eight o’clock and the venue began to substantially fill up by seven forty-five. The Coathangers, an all-girl experimental punk group from Atlanta, Georgia, were set to open the show, and they started it off with a bang. The four piece ran onstage with an energy similar to that of a high school band who are playing their first show in their school’s auditorium; triumphant and just all-around excited to be there. The music was simple but interesting. The band is clearly influenced by the pioneering punk band The Ramones, not only in their music; the girls each adopted the word ‘Coathanger’ as their pseudo-last name. Crook Kid Coathanger’s vocals could be described as angsty but happy yelling; powerful enough to drive the band but not too overbearing and still able to compliment the style of the instrumentals and the somewhat singsong-y backup vocals. Throughout the set, the members interchanged instruments, which was both interesting and impressive. Three of the girls took turns singing lead. Rusty Coathanger, blonde haired drummer, stole the show over the time of just one song. She grabbed the mic and sang and yelled her heart out, crawling on the ground and into the crowd while doing so. She danced around and jumped up and down offstage and in the crowd. This was enough to get people dancing and smiling, if not laughing at the spectacle that was happening in front of them. The show ended with one of The Coathanger’s most upbeat songs, in which Crook Kid sang into two microphones in one hand with a mission to make every person there love her band. She didn’t disappoint.
In next to no time, the second band was set up and ready to play.
“Yikes”, repeated Jordan Blilie, vocalist, as he did his mic check in the tiny venue. Past Lives, an indie art punk band from Seattle, Washington, takes the stage calmly, ready to prove they’re as good, if not better than some of the members former band, The Blood Brothers. I wasn’t too familiar with either act, but the reaction of the audience said enough. The distorted guitars and Blilie’s aggressive vocal style got people dancing in no time. Jordan stood rigidly while tapping his foot to the beat of the snare and sang so forcefully that one could clearly see the veins in his neck. Drummer Mark Gajadhar played his set so hard that he broke a drumstick midway through a song, although this didn’t stop him from continuing to play. The crowd begged for Past Lives to play a Blood Brothers song, a request to which they hesitantly obliged. “You gotta move because we don’t know what we’re doing here,” warned Gajadhar. The song was a bit sloppy, but true fans didn’t seem to notice as they danced and sang along. By the end of the set there is perspiration rolling right off of Blilie’s face, to which he reacted with, ‘ew’. The band played their last song, which got people dancing almost as energetically as the Blood Brothers track did, and the members walked nonchalantly offstage.
The room was packed by the time Past Lives left the stage. Thermals fans pushed their way up to the front of the room, some getting glances of disapproval along the way from others who had been standing in front of the stage since the beginning of the night. I looked around and noticed the demographic of people didn’t fit into one stereotype. The ages ranged from adults in their forties to kids barely in high school. Granted, The Thermals, an indie/pop punk band based out of Portland, Oregon, have been around for quite awhile. They’ve got four full-length records under their belt and two live albums. Thermals’ setup time was expectedly longer than those of the other bands, although it doesn’t seem apparent that the three-piece would require a very long time to set up at all. Hutch Harris’s two identical wooden bodied Fender guitars were lined up behind where he would stand at his microphone and Kathy Foster’s sleek black Fender bass was placed in the same spot on the opposite end of the stage. Drummer Westin Glass’s set was hauled into the middle of the stage, revealing tape designs and drawings on the head of his floor tom. Twenty song-long set lists were taped to the floor, one for each member. Some fans
looked down and began to read off the songs to be played, to which the guy taping them responded, “Stop cheating!” Just as the crowd began to appear restless, the trio that is The Thermals ran onstage; ready to proudly represent the western U.S. indie scene. The Thermals played a straight hour-long set, hardly taking a break between songs. Harris’s energy could not be matched and Glass could not wipe the smile from his face. He looked genuinely ecstatic that so many people knew the words to the group’s songs. Foster played the bass without flaw and added a beautiful contrast to Harris’s vocals with her own. They ended
their set with ‘Now We Can See’, their biggest single off 2009’s album of the same title. The entire room sang along to the catchy, ‘Oh Way Oh Woah Oh’ line, whether they knew any of the other words or not. The Thermals thanked the crowd for having them and gracefully left the stage, smiles not leaving their faces.
The Coathangers, Past Lives, and The Thermals provided a perfect eclectic punk mix to entertain a Saturday night crowd at The Space. The three groups were different in their own ways but melded well enough to create a seamless show. Having gone to this show being relatively familiar with only The Thermals and not knowing much about the other bands, I have to say I was impressed. All three bands won me over as a new fan, thanks to another successful Manic Production.