Show Reviews

Show Review: Overcoats Make Their Mark—and New Fans—in Chicago

Towards the end of 2019, I featured one of my longtime favorite duos, Overcoats, on the blog for September’s Artist Of The Month. They were just starting to release new music ahead of their sophomore album, release date TBD, and touring with Two Door Cinema Club. 2020 brought the release of three new singles and another tour announcement with Cold War Kids.

I first got to see Overcoats perform a headlining set at Lincoln Hall in the end of 2017 and was hooked on their catchy synth sound and folk-influenced vocals and melodies. Their sound is an interesting combination that seems hard to master and even harder to imitate.

Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell met in 2011 at Wesleyan University and formed a bond over their similar taste in music. The start of their duo came quickly, and they started performing and making a name for themselves in the college music scene. Their debut EP was released in 2015, which led to positively-received performances at South by Southwest the following year and a full-length release in 2017.

Young was critically acclaimed and named one of the best albums of the year by NPR. It was written by Elion and Mitchell, and co-produced by Nicolas Vernhes, who has also worked with Daughter, The War on Drugs, Dirty Projectors and more. Autre Ne Veut, Myles Avery and Ben Baptie were also involved in the production.

Like I said in my AOTM post, it’s an interesting time for Overcoats’ follow-up album to be released. The release of “The Fool” was inspired by a tarot card of the same name, which “signifies taking a leap of faith and jumping into the unknown,” according to this Instagram post.

“Conceptually, it felt like the beginning of the project. We wiped the slate clean and decided to jump. That’s why the video includes the footage of us shaving our heads. We’re ‘The Fool’, and we’re taking our leap.”

Every time I have seen Overcoats live, it’s only been the two women playing together onstage with an occasional drummer. Their live set got a bit of a refresh this time around, featuring two new band members performing onstage with them. I saw prior to the show that they were featuring new aspects to their live show that I hadn’t seen before, and was initially unsure of how it would affect the way their music sounds live. However, it only elevated their music to the next level. While I thought they were doing a great job before, hearing live instruments take up space in a way that was absent before gave new life to the songs, and I thought it was a really great addition. 

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Overcoats opened their set with two unreleased songs, the second of which will be released shortly after this blog post goes up. Both songs sounded great and were able to reach their full potential due to the full band on stage, and I’m assuming that the songs were recorded in this way as well. 

Like the Instagram post I referenced before, it felt like the release of these new songs was a reset for the group. That feeling definitely carried over into this set, as they only performed two songs from their debut – “Leave The Light On” and “Nighttime Hunger.” The rest of the 10-song set was reserved for new music (six songs), a cover of Hozier’s “Cherry Wine” (which currently sits at nearly 29 million streams), and one random standalone single “I Don’t Believe In Us,” which came out in 2017. While I would have liked hearing a few more of their songs from Young, it felt fitting that they were performing new songs from their upcoming project. As an opening act, there’s a pretty large chance you will be performing to an audience that for the majority, isn’t familiar with your music. There’s really no point for Overcoats playing songs that they’ve performed for nearly three years at this point. And if they did have fans in the audience who previously knew their music, I’m sure they were more than happy to hear something new.
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Looking back, Overcoats’ debut album definitely now feels like a stepping stone to the band they were always meant to become. The energy I could feel radiating off the stage felt more confident and consistent, excited to share the art they have been crafting for their next album. As someone who has seen Overcoats perform a handful of times, I can say with confidence that this was the best they’ve been thus far. It’s not easy to keep a fan’s attention during a live show, especially a fan who has seen an artist perform multiple times.
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As I returned to find a spot in the audience after I was taking photos, I heard people around me complimenting Overcoats’ music, specifically their vocals. While I go to plenty of shows, it’s quite honestly, pretty rare for me to hear people complimenting the opening act as frequently as I heard it at this set. I know for a fact Overcoats left the stage that night with more fans than they started with.

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Thanks for reading!

  • Kristin

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