Gig Review | Overcoats at Whelan’s

It’s 2017, and Overcoats are due to perform the first show of their European tour tonight in Whelan’s, Dublin. The duo boast an American tour supporting Maggie Rogers as well as a critically acclaimed album. The band recently made the sticky transition from acoustic folk to electro-pop, all the more interesting for those who like to observe the ways in which artists translate the pristine quality of a pop recording into a live setting.

I arrive to Whelan’s early, and lounge in the smoking area with a friend until doors. There is a warmth and history in Whelan’s that other venues in Dublin don’t have. It is easy to forget about the generations of artists and musicians that have walked through its doors and played on its stages. But they are there, hanging on the walls and lingering in the air. Their walls are decorated with framed pictures of bands that have performed in the venue over the years, ranging from Grimes to Ham Sandwich. Overcoats, the collective moniker of alt-pop duo Hanna Elion & JJ Mitchell, are the next act to grace the venue’s upstairs stage. Originally from New York, the pair spent some time in Dublin a couple of years ago, and their return to Ireland’s capital has been highly anticipated.

By chance, we meet Hanna & JJ as they emerge from their soundcheck at around 7.30pm. Just in time, I stop myself from waving at them in friendly recognition, having followed the pair’s Instagram and Facebook pages for some months. Their ability to make their listeners feel like they know them is striking, even prior to the show. Hanna dons a head of silver curls and an infectious smile, while JJ’s hard face is encircled by long, jet black hair. They make for a particularly compelling duo. More prominent, however, is the large black cast on Hanna’s foot causing her to limp. Having sustained a foot injury only weeks prior, she would be on crutches for the duration of the tour. Her spirit is high despite her injury, and her energy unaffected.

It is common knowledge amongst native Dubliners that one sure way to lure the city’s most hip and trendy out of hiding is by hosting a Tola Vintage Kilo sale. The other way, it seems, is to host an Overcoats concert. The audience is composed of an eclectic mix of colourful and fashionable individuals, all of which swayed and moved in time to the contagious sounds of Overcoats’ music. Hanna & JJ don floor length white dresses, and I’m pleasantly surprised by how unhindered their energy is by Hanna’s foot injury.


Their band has been compressed into one Macbook Pro, and backing tracks are triggered throughout the set by JJ. I must be honest – I am usually weary of artists who perform with only a laptop as their instrument. Often being so heavily reliant on one laptop prevents the artist from performing to their potential, and renders them reliant on the venue having a good sound system to facilitate all of the frequencies that have been squashed into that backing track. But, my God, did Overcoats prove me wrong. Their short opening song consists of an array of airy synths and vocals. The pair sit still on high stools and stare eerily out into the audience for the duration of the song. It is quite haunting. The remainder of the set is mostly upbeat. The pair’s dancing was infectious, and this certainly compensated for the lack of live band.

The stand out songs from the night were ‘Leave The Light On’ &Kai’s Song’, both of which have been released as singles (it is easy to hear why). The former is uptempo and its lyrics are empowering, ‘leave the light on for myself when I come home’. The pair state during the show that a lot of the songs on their new album have been written to promote female liberation and independence, which is evident in the music. Their music is unashamedly pop, but their songs have a deeper undercurrent to them that makes Overcoats’ music stand out from the plethora of popular music prevalent online today.

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