CONCERTS: Les Chats Noir

Queensland, Australia’s The Chats arrive in The Big Apple, declare New York “a piece of shit” at first ever show at the Brooklyn Bowl

The Chats at the Brooklyn Bowl / Photo by Eric Davidson

For up ‘n’ coming trash rock acts, it would appear that viral videos are the new “first time through a town playing a near empty, shitty dive.”

Last Wednesday – for their first ever NYC show, on their first ever big U.S. tour, for their first album (Get This in Ya!, Burger, 2019) – Queensland, Australia’s The Chats played to a packed house at Brooklyn Bowl. That’s like 600+/- people, and on a steamy, thunder-stormed summer night no less, where Mother Nature would dictate you stay in and watch, well, viral videos. Oh, and they packed a 250+ bar in Kingston, NY, the night before.


VIDEO: The Chats “Smoko”

The Chats’ “you-gotta-see-this” clip was 2017’s hilarious video for their song, “Smoko.” Hilarious in that kind of fourth-removed, nearly negated irony that neo-Millennials (is there a name for them yet?) developed in their pre-teen years, when Napoleon Dynamite was their Caddyshack. Laughing at a guy simply because he has a mullet, ill-fitting sporting duds, and walks through a desolate, VHS-hued landscape.

Nevertheless, they nailed that visual, and the song is top-notch, Aussie thug-punk that goes back to the Hard-Ons at least, even the Chosen Few. But it was obvious scanning the crowd that name-dropping even 1990s greats (still playing!!), the Cosmic Psychos, would’ve been met with blank stares. I was starting to wonder if most of this crowd had even heard of the Black Lips, the template for this brand of shorts’n’sneers party garage.

Well since the “Smoko” video has since garnered over seven million views, and the band has racked up social media numbers in the six figures, it would appear The Chats are in that important position bands like the Black Lips, the Hives, Nirvana and the Buzzcocks once occupied – the new, catchy buzz band that will hopefully be a conduit to deeper musical exploration for often fickle fans. With great social media numbers comes great responsibility.

The two local openers were fittingly furious. Cutie chugged through fast numbers like their garbage man uncles had a six-pack waiting for them backstage. And Gnarcissists added slightly better songwriting to that sauced sound, featuring a singer with a formidably fallowing scream.

The great thing about a band like The Chats, once they shift into gear, all your aging show-goer judgements and theories go right down the toilet, which you will visit often because this is the sort of band that demands numerous beers. Hitting the stage and jumping into a thumping number, the singer, Josh Price, introduced himself:

“Y’know, everyone back home is always saying, ‘You gotta go to New York, you gotta see New York, it’s soooo beautiful!’ Well, I’m here, and it’s a piece of shit!

And then into a faster song. Then Price and bassist Eamon Sandwith walk to the front flip their guitars up, and of course it says, “Fuck” and “You” on each. Hilarious, and no slo-motion. And just when you think maybe this’ll be all shtick (nothing wrong with shtick, mind you), the rest of the set was an increasingly active garage trash bash, the audience slamming around, and various folks seemingly trying their virgin hand at stage-diving. Bit of advice: It’s called “diving,” not “walking up and flopping back.” Commit, people! But it wasn’t just 20-somethings digging it, as I ran into a number of ol’ pals who smiled and nodded knowingly.

The Chats at the Brooklyn Bowl / Photo by Eric Davidson

The Chats slide in just enough hooks and chant-along choruses (not to mention that mullet) to recall that surprising way some garage punk bands of the middle-00s revived an early ‘70s junkshop, boot-stomp, pre-Oi ethos. It’s easy to be a bit cynical about the “sudden” success ((they have been a band for more than three years now) of a band, seemingly based on a couple of videos. Their association with the mondo-active Burger Records doesn’t hurt. But if they work it and write catchy tunes, well hey, any band that can keep stein-hoisting alive is alright by me.

And in that was the always hovering, but possibly pointless observation of the show. There’s no doubt that had The Chats first come through and played some crappy little Bushwick joint it would’ve held an excitement that larger, newer, bouncer-lined, $8-beer venues like Brooklyn Bowl just can’t inspire. But I am sure, for The Chats, having come over from the other side of the world, it was great to see so many people at a NYC show. All in all, I was glad they had that many more people to berate, sling beer at, and aurally stomp upon.

P.S. Before the show, I got a beer, sat down for a text, and saw a kid sitting there with an amazing old Saints t-shirt on. I of course told him his shirt was awesome, and as we, um, chatted, turned out he was The Chats’ drummer. Nice guy, called the Cosmic Psychos “legends.” Good on ya, Chats.


VIDEO: The Chats at the Burger Boogaloo 2019


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Eric Davidson

Eric Davidson is a freelance writer from Queens; singer of New Bomb Turks; author of We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut, 1988–2001, and former Managing Editor of CMJ. Follow him @lanceforth.

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