New York's pyschobilly punk duo Couch N' Commando headlines Mayo's
Mayo’s on Brainerd Rd. has a reputation as one of Chattanooga’s favorite hole-in-the-wall bars, but did you know they put on some pretty damn fine shows as well? Many people do not, and that’s a shame. At one time, it was as much a music venue as any place and it seems like more and more lately they’re determined to reclaim and keep that title as the next few weeks see some hot acts.
This Friday, Mayo’s is blowing the doors off with one of the most blistering shows in town featuring two artists I’ve had the pleasure of writing about, Tomcat Hughes and GA Brown, and one that’s new to me, and maybe you. They’re called Coach N' Commando and they’re about to become your next favorite group.
Coach N' Commando is a New York based duo (though their Facebook page lists a third member, Kitten Karnage. I don’t know who or what Kitten Karnage is, but I dig the name.) The band features Matt Witte on guitar and vocals and John Swayne on drums, and that’s it. Frankly, that’s all they need. These guys squeeze out more raw musical goodness with that basic setup than plenty of bands do with twice the lineup.
Ostensibly listed as psychobilly and alt-country, the first thing that came screaming in to my head after listening to the title track of their 2016 album Kids’ll Lose Their Heads was pure punk. Sure, the instrumentation is beautifully twangy and if they hadn’t listed Merle Travis as an influence, it would have been easy enough to guess, but the punk is strong with this one.
Of course, that description is basically what psychobilly is in the first place, so it’s apt, I’m just sharing a first impression.
Moving on through the album it becomes clearer that you’re only approximating them by slapping any particular label on. They clearly have a command of punk, country (the good kind from the old days), rockabilly and more, and each song seems to utilize a different ratio of those elements.
That’s a nice touch because it gives the album cohesion, but allows enough clever variety to keep you on your toes and engaged. Rather like a master chef combining a particular range of spices in different ways to produce distinct but delicious recipes.
Witte’s vocals, a fascinating blend of Townes Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen and Mojo Nixon, allow him to glide seamlessly between genres as the particular song dictates. “Chokin’ On a Mouthful of Louisiana Dirt” is a perfect example of that vocal versatility (and my personal favorite track.)
Witte’s guitar is no less profound with more than one opening lick sounding like a Buck Owens record before fuzzing up and thrashing out like Nixon. I’m not going to claim to be an authority on the genre. I know who some of the biggest names are, even had the pleasure of seeing the Reverend Horton Heat once. I’ve seen a handful and regional acts too, that came and went. Most of them were…adequate.
Coach N' Commando, on the other hand, owns the stage. Between Witte on guitar and vocals and Swayne providing the backbone sans bass (the guy somehow manages to be wickedly precise while simultaneous sounding like a dam about to burst), Coach N' Commando is one of the very best of their kind I’ve heard in a long time.
Tomcat and GA are well-known heavy-hitters in this area. Coach N' Commando are about to be as well and it’s about time. The combination of all three on the same bill is genius and kudos to Chris Moree for getting C N' C down here. He’s not just a great musician; he has an ear for talent.
Mayo’s, this Friday, it’s going to be a hell of a show. For a sample of their music, find them on bandcamp, or better still, get a feel for their real intensity on YouTube.