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REVIEW: The Overcoats bring Dance and Catharsis to the Stage at Brighton Music Hall

Written by Joanna Malvas

May 16, 2023

The Overcoats, an indie pop and rock duo consisting of JJ Mitchell and Hana Elion, launched their first-ever tour at Brighton Music Hall Monday, April 24 — showcasing their dreamy vocals in a series of breakup songs with feminist undertones from their latest album, “Winner.”

Despite its danceability and insane falsetto harmonies, their new album reflects the struggles the duo endured during the pandemic when leaving their previous label, and their path to finding clarity after. As Hana explains, “Winner” encapsulates the complicated themes of their album.

“It’s like the thesis of the record. The record is a lot about rejection and perseverance,” Hana said. “I think, a lot of what we found when making this record is that you got to believe in yourself, and that’s really all that matters.”

To set the mood of the night, indie R&B artist Halima Edozie-Akinlade opened the concert as a one-woman-band with only a red electric guitar, loop pedal and a mic. With a voice reminiscent of Ms. Lauryn Hill coupled with her own neo-groove style, Halima enamored the audience with her entrancing presence. She began each song with a simple looped rhythm, such as a set of afrobeats or bass. Layering over her beat, Halima plucked her guitar and sang with smooth, reverbed vocals. Ending her set, she sang “Ford Cardinal,” hyping up the crowd to chant “Nickels! Dimes! Pennies! Quarters!”

Halima also performed a newly released single called “Vehicle.” Ironically, Halima does not have her driver's license.

“I don’t even know how to drive,” Halima said. “I just like metaphors, and I like the machinery of cars and the fact that most people travel in them. To me, it’s a really interesting visual. You’re always going on some sort of journey.”

Halima began making music when she was 10, after moving to London with her mother as a kid. As an only child, she spent a lot of time alone, experimenting with her guitar.

“Writing music was like a safe haven for me, and it was a way for me to express myself and to be my own company,” Halima said.

After the opening, the duo came strutting in, with Hana wearing pink with black leather pants and boots, and JJ dressed in a puffy cottage-core-like dress and bloomers (with a matching belt, of course). They twirled each other to “Want You Back.”

On stage, JJ and Hana said, “We love dance. Dance is life.”

When asked about how they would describe their performance in one word, JJ smiled and said, “Exuberant.” Meanwhile, Hana said, “Surprising.”

I then asked, “Surprising in what way?”

“I just had totally forgotten what it feels like to perform,” Hana said. 

“And it was surprising how nervous I was.”

“-— She was very nervous,” JJ said.

JJ and Hana both exude a natural synergy when performing side-by-side on stage, despite the nerves felt for their first concert of the tour. Their free-spirited choreography and quick maneuvers to switch between the keys and guitar speaks to the duo’s versatility, as JJ and Hana harmonized in an incredibly ethereal, airy blend.

“I think it was when I looked out and people were singing along to the new songs from our latest album, because it’s only been out for less than a month — two weeks,” JJ said.

The most intriguing spectacle of the night was the audience. A man in a tie-dye “WOMEN RULE” crewneck stood to the side of the stage, recording the entire performance. Towards the back, two strangers joined hands, dancing in two-step to “Never Let You Go.” A young woman in a crop top and a leather jacket stood next to an unassuming elderly man — both sing every lyric to “Fire & Fury” verbatim. Yet, no one can compare in lyric memorization to the man standing at the very front, nearest to the stage, headbanging at 90 degrees to “Horsegirl.”

That man was Patrick.  Finding out about the Overcoats through a mutual friend of Hana about five years, he had already gone to multiple concerts.

“The first song I heard off of this album is ‘Never Let You Go.’ It came on the radio in Colorado, the day I was driving back home to Massachusetts. Alyssa and I actually broke up, and we were in a ten year relationship, and it was so fitting — so perfect. It’s been my anthem since then,” Patrick said.

Alyssa stood next to Patrick during the interview and teasingly kicked him. Patrick continued to smile.

“Because, I still loved this girl, Alyssa, so it spoke to me,” Patrick said.

My favorite moment from the concert was when JJ and Hana sang their iconic cover to “Cherry Wine” by Hozier, which has over 36 million streams on Spotify. During this song, there was a distinct shift in the audience’s energy as the lights dimmed and an overwhelming silence occurred. The side conversations and dancing stopped. Then, JJ and Hana sang. Something was so magnetic about their voices. Gentle whispers of the lyrics were heard from the crowd, as many swayed back and forth.

After watching the concert, I realized that the Overcoats bring a sense of liberating catharsis — the kind that taps into a teenage dream, of wanting to drive down a highway at 80 miles per hour. The type of euphoria that they bring to people is infectious, especially when hearing their voices live.

When asking Alyssa and Patrick how they would describe their night, they agreed on the word, “nostalgic.”

“The other phrase I’d say is, ‘in the moment,’ Patrick said. “Just forget everything else, and be in the moment.”

The Fenway Recordings Sessions is a concert series that’s been happening in Boston since 2004. Hosted by Fenway Recordings founder, Mark Kates, the series features some of today’s biggest and most interesting indie bands in the city’s best small live venues. The hundreds of artists that have played under the Sessions banner in nearly the past 2 decades include Diplo, fun., Alt-J, Ellie Goulding, The Wombats, Tegan and Sara, Hot Chip, Cold War Kids, Echo and the Bunnymen, Femi Kuti, Fountains of Wayne and Fenway artists from Mission of Burma to MGMT to The Cribs. They are nearing the 500th Session show, and the series continues to be a source for fresh live music in the city of Boston.

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