I lived in a boring town this summer. I won’t tire you with the frivolous details of how I ended up there, since that story alone would probably fill a whole page of print. During my first weekend I sat on my bed in my admittedly lovely apartment (note: boring-town real estate is a lot cheaper than college town real estate) panicking over how I was wasting away my last summer before real-life and formal adulthood began.
In that sitting, I bought a ticket to a music festival that was happening the next weekend in Toronto — the nearest major metropolitan area.
Despite my strong persuasive abilities, I wasn’t able to convince any of my friends to make the same whim purchase, so I went by myself. Being alone, I got to experience the festival on my own terms, starting out by sitting far up the lawn at one stage and letting the music be background to my thoughts. One set ended, leading into a 30-minute break. Then two 20-something year-old women appeared on stage, wearing oversized suit jackets, wide-leg palazzo pants and sunglasses that covered half their faces. A quick glance at the lineup identified them as New York City-based duo, Overcoats.
The visuals alone were enough to get me on my feet and walking up as close as I could to the stage. From that moment all the way to the last chord, I stopped thinking about my present dilemmas. I was distracted by the chills that pulsed through my bloodstream with each song of minimalist-beat-backed pop and stunning harmonies. I shudder when I try to imagine a world where these voices never met. I added their debut album Young to my Apple Music account immediately after they bid farewell.
Fast-forward three months and I’m at another Overcoats show. This time it’s at Ann Arbor’s The Blind Pig. This time I walk in with the weight of a new semester and the daunting pressure of trying to figure out what I want to do with my life after graduation. And very much like the first time I saw them, my worries didn’t make it past the first song.
There were ample differences between the two shows, as there should be when playing a small bar in the evening rather than an outdoor stage in broad daylight. They ditched the costumes for everyday streetwear and adopted a lax “talking to friends” tone rather than the “talking to a crowd” persona.
In essence that’s exactly what the show felt like: Hanging out with friends. They chatted back and forth between songs, talking to each other and talking to the crowd. If it weren’t for their perfect harmonies and polished instrumentals, I would have wondered if I was watching the rehearsal or the actual show; it all seemed so effortless and genuine.
My favorite parts of any show were the moments that feel unique to that night. Artists are constantly on the move; they tour the same set day after day, so in theory you could have the same concert experience you had one night in a different state the next week. Except that’s not how it actually works. Every night has it’s own moments that are a product of the time and place and all of the people present.
The number of these intimate moments throughout the course of the Overcoats show was astounding. There was a “Go Blue” vs. “Go Green” battle and an impression of a blind pig. Before the encore they took multiple laps around the venue, high-fiving the audience. They kept encouraging people to dance, going as far as to ask where they should go dancing after the show (“Rick’s!”). The night was singular.
Perhaps best of all was the debut of a new song, “If You Leave.” Amid the standard setlist (which was the entirety of Young and a cover of Hozier’s “Cherry Wine”), the duo nervously announced that they were about to grace us with something brand new. Successfully resisting the urge to record, I’m only left with my memories of this initial listen. That single listen revealed another track of gorgeous harmonies and the same electropop rock vibes that drew me to them that day in Toronto.
Still, the song itself wasn’t the best part, but rather the atmosphere that the new track created. Everything from the nervous onstage chatter that preempted the song to the unwavering audience concentration throughout the duration to the largest ovation of the night at the end aided in creating the most memorable moment of the night.
Inevitably, my worries returned the next morning (they aren’t miracle-workers after all). Still, their ability to create a stress free atmosphere in the center of a high-pressure college town is a testament to their incredible performing talent. I can only hope that as Overcoats gain recognition for their excellent music and begin to play larger venues that this aura continues.