(I am super-stoked to bring you this awesome coverage by Seattle writer/photographer AJ Dent, who stepped in for me last-minute. THANK YOU SO MUCH, AJ!!!! And click on any photo to enlarge, of course! -- Marianne)

“Wear a helmet!”

While walking to Neumos this past Friday night, I received this text message from a friend about the show I was about to attend. The Capitol Hill establishment boasted a mosh-tastic lineup of Universe People, The Coathangers, and Black Lips. The fact that it was sold out only sealed the deal on how insane I knew it was going to get. I responded to my friend with gratitude for the warning, and a “haha” remark.

“I’m not kidding!” he sent back.

When Seattle-based trio Universe People jump-started the night, I wasn't too worried about my skull quite yet, but their jams made me want to host a punk feminist book club gathering. It’d start with reading quotes and sipping whiskey to their music, and end with a huge backyard bonfire with the band rocking out right on the grass. Attendees of the Neumos show were still just arriving, but those near the front of the stage were already doing that head-bop shuffle-thing that Seattleites have an affinity for at the beginning of evenings. Sometimes it can feel like hours before the freeze melts at concerts, so it was encouraging to see people getting into Universe People’s garage rock right away.

Universe People, Neumos, Seattle 3/28/14

Having The Coathangers play next was just downright brilliant billing. It looked like the all-female group could spontaneously combust onstage at any moment. They’re playing with Black Lips for a leg of their tour, having just released their fourth full-length album on March 18th via Suicide Squeeze Records, and that newborn-esque energy was a-wailin'. The tequila-soaked, tight-as-a-wire Suck My Shirt is so awesome it’s almost funny. And speaking of shirts, the women all wore different cut-off variations of the same one, a white and black top blaring the band’s name. Perhaps this was a show of solidarity, since the group recently moved from four members to three. It reminded me of the fact that bands used to wear matching outfits all the time; whatever happened to that? I loved their take on it.

Anyway, the ladies completely killed the growing audience dead, switching instruments with one another, rotating spaces, headbanging so hard their mops of black hair and piles of tattoos became blurs from where I stood. I wanted to climb up there with an improvised mic in hand and join them so badly, it was borderline psychotic. (Dear Coathangers, can I just do that sometime? Maybe you want a fourth member again? Yes? Please?)

The Coathangers, Neumos, Seattle 3/28/14

So by then, after a push-pit had commenced, whiskey Cokes were flowing, and the venue was radiating heatwaves, the crowd felt utterly hungry to me. Like everyone was just looking back and forth at each other with “How much trouble can I cause right now? What can I get away with?” in their eyes, a speckling of drool on their chins. Within seconds of Black Lips striking their instruments, PBR cans were being thrown at the guys -- and in a celebratory way, not a rotten-tomato one.

Black Lips, Neumos, Seattle, 3/28/14

Imagine hundreds of racehorses being let out of the gate at the same time, but facing one another instead of an open track. I swear I spent fifty percent of their set with my hands instinctively near my face, dodging the kicks of crowdsurfers, and the other fifty percent laughing out loud at all the antics around me. The band busted out favorites like “Bad Kids” and “Veni Vidi Vici”, roiling anthems that got the packed floor filled with shakes and shoves. I loved the spectrum of people there -- it certainly wasn’t just young female indie rock fans, nor college-aged beer-chuggers. The crowd consisted of countless age groups and demographics, and watching them all mash into one another while singing “Boys In The Wood” put a huge, dopey grin on my face. Not to mention the constant smiles of the band members themselves, the kiss that Cole Alexander and Ian Saint Pé shared, or the rolls of toilet paper thrown across the crowd.

Thankfully, I never got hit in the head too hard that night, but there were plenty of toe-crushing, slamming-into-strangers moments. It was a helluva ball, and if you get to catch these guys live, let’s just say I recommend not laughing off my friends advice.