On Thursday 14 September, indie rockers Coach Party appeared at The Jacaranda club in Liverpool, to play an intimate and stripped-down set of songs from their latest album, Killjoy.
Once the gig space, which holds little more than around 50 heads, was shoulder-to-shoulder with spectators, lead vocalists Joe and Jess descended the stairs to the basement and squeezed through to join drummer, Guy, and guitarist, Steph, on stage.
Reservedly confident, Jess compliments the fan wearing a Coach Party tee standing mere millimetres from her mic stand, indicating the intention for tonight to be a safe space. She goes on to expertly disarm the rest of the crowd by addressing us as one, warning that they haven’t written a setlist for tonight’s gig – it’s left up to us to decide if that’s through nonchalance or poor organisation skills. Maybe both.
After all, the band have not long come from supporting Queens of The Stone Age in Lyon over the summer and are currently up for a number of chart positions with Killjoy. They’re not quite famous yet, but gigging enough to forget which town they’re in from time-to-time (apparently Nottingham’s sold-out show did not take kindly to Joe confusing them with Bristol).
With this in mind, we choose not to take the lack of planning personally.
Anthems to live by
Their first song, Be Like a Girl, is a delicate break-up song from the point of view of a fed-up partner in a too-far-gone situationship. It’s played slightly slower than the album version, with the whisper of an Eilish from front woman Jess, and a touch of 90s Sixpence None The Richer. A slow but steady start that garners some smatters of applause and one or two obligatory whoops.
Unphased by the moderately quiet response so far, the band enter some laid-back discourse about how Jess has just recovered from a nasty cold that gave her “one of those coughs that you wake up with at 3am”, to which the crowd audibly relates and offers their sympathies. The conversation extends to Steph, who Jess says has now caught the godforsaken lurgy. It’s the kind of ‘how about this weather?’ chat that should have shut everyone down completely but apparently had the opposite effect, garnering knowing smiles and empathetic chuckles. It’s nice to have a band ascending the charts in the way they are, who also aren’t above that kind of tete-a-tete.
With the crowd suitably charmed, they kick things into action with Born Leader, a confident step towards grunge. A fuzzy guitar riff readies the entrance for lyrics that front as shameless, self-aggrandising statements about how everyone wants to be them, only for the chorus to admit that actually they just want to be loved. An age-old tale in today’s Instagram world. Joe’s backing vocals pair perfectly with Jess’ feminine alto, and the lyrics seem at home with either singer – proving that the song could be from the perspective of anyone, including the listener.
It’s at this stage that Jess shares with the band’s new-found Jac pals that they’ll find out in the morning if their album makes the top 40 charts. She pains to show enthusiasm about this, explaining: “it’s not very rock to make the charts”, but does admit that meeting the threshold would mean they’d go from getting the good hotel package to the really good hotel package, with a hairdryer, much to Steph’s pleasure. Keen to maintain the down-to-earth rapport they’ve built in this intimate setting, they insist they’d still rather stay in the Premier Inn.
They waste no further time introducing their next song, July. The tempo is taken up a notch, signalling to the crowd that now is the time to bop along, which they duly proceed to do. The lyrics are unquestionably catchy, albeit juxtaposed with the darkest so far. The words “And I feel so fucked up, like my body’s just a shadow…” precedes a chorus of “I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna”. It asks all the questions we’ve asked ourselves in our mid-20s: ‘do my friends think I’m boring?’ ‘Is anything real anymore?’ ‘Would I be happier knowing that it’s (whatever ‘it’ is) a part of growing (up)?’
A break at the halfway point of July is initiated by Jess with the polite request, “unless you feel too cringey”, to sing along with her. Of course, we accept, and dutifully take her lead: “Everything has changed, I don’t wanna change though.” At 2 mins 23 seconds, the song is over just as quickly as our twenties were. It’s the perfect precursor to the heaviest song so far.
In Always Been You, both guitarists get their time to shine in the most understated way, and despite their commitment to a stripped-down version of the album songs, the potential for a real grunge-rock song peeks through, and all those Wolf Alice comparisons begin to make sense.
The next song is the closest we get to a pint-spiller as Jess reveals that, up until now, they’ve been singing the more sensitive parts of the album. All I Wanna Do Is Hate changes that. The guitar is still tentative, yet louder than the last song, and Jess unleashes the angst in her vocals to demonstrate that she “feels like crying” and “dying”, while “doing all the things you said not to”. The recklessness of the lyrics is at odds with the almost classic Britpop instrumental and it’s the only time throughout the whole set that I wish I was hearing this one in all its glory, imagining how heavy it could get. With albums to sell at the end of this, one might say that’s exactly the point. They’re smarter than they make out.
Their last song brings about peak melancholy with What’s The Point in Life, a song title that was watered down from We’re All Gonna Die on instruction from their label, who care less for looking rocky over getting rich. Still, they allowed the band to keep that line in the chorus, which is gratefully received. The song is uncharacteristically chipper and really fun to sing, as the crowd comes to realise. It’s giving Idles lite, even a little bit of Fontaines DC, and bags of attitude. They definitely saved the best for last; a blistering rock tune, heavy on the instruments, indulging in light and shade to pack a punch multiple times throughout. An undeniable tune.
Encore, farewell and final thoughts
Climax achieved, the band say their thanks and perform the obligatory charade of walking back through the crowd to ascend the steps to sign albums, before their desired quota of cries for ‘more’ bring them back to whence they came, for one last song. Alas, they probably should have carried on walking. Admittedly, the crowd’s expectations are managed by both Jess and Joe, who warn that “this is a terrible rendition” while making a tongue-in-cheek apology that they “had to end the night like this”.
What ensues is closer to an electronic version of their song Parasite, an angry song in which the album-version is screamed out by Jess, who perhaps is choosing to save her voice post-lurgy. Despite gallantly stepping in, it’s done no justice by Joe, who pounds the keyboard and shamelessly shouts out a more-or-less solo version. It’s loud, it’s chaotic and it feels a bit like karaoke in all honesty. It’s another speedy track and truly the last song of the night.
It’s not bad, but I know they won’t mind me saying that it’s not good either! It’s a bit of an own goal but nevertheless the game ends 5-1 in favour of the music.
Coach Party are playing a fully plugged-in set at Canvas, Manchester (after selling out their sister-venue, Deaf Institute, back in February) next Saturday on 30 September. Then they’re back in Liverpool for another full-throttle set at Hangar 34, Liverpool on Saturday 7 October. Tickets are, in my humble opinion, an absolute bargain, starting at £15 and still available to buy.