Concert preview: Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars attacks music like a predator

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From the January 16, 2014 edition

By day, Betty Machete and the Angry Cougars singer Linda Flowers Dull is, in her own words, a mild-mannered employee working for a relatively button-up corporation. Once the sun goes down, however, she’s transformed into Betty Machete, fiery frontwoman to a rowdy crew of punk-rockers.

“I’m kind of like Clark Kent during the afternoon,” Dull said in a recent phone interview. “Every time I tell [co-workers] about the band they’re shocked. They never really believe it ’til I show them a YouTube video [of us performing] or something.”

Even Dull has had some difficulty adjusting to this emerging persona. The singer, who was born and raised in Cleveland, said she always considered herself the quieter, more introspective type, and when the band performed its first concert at Tree Bar she had to fight the urge to flee from the stage.

“There was that thought like, ‘I could turn around, run away and cry, or I can just belt this out like I’ve been doing in every other practice,’” she said. “So I just went for it.”

This trend continues on the band’s latest 7-inch, Rats, a blistering, two-track effort that finds the crew embracing the twin pillars of brevity (the entire thing clocks in at just more than five minutes) and brutality (at times it sounds as though the players are laying waste to the recording studio). Neither trait should surprise considering the quintet settled on its name after watching a brief National Geographic video of a cougar tearing a defenseless elk to shreds.

“[The cougar] had this look on its face like, ‘Don’t fuck with me,’” Dull said. “And I was like, ‘That’s what I want our band to sound like.’”

“Rats,” for one, captures a similar sense of carnage, with Dull howling about eradicating vermin (the song was born of the Clintonville rat epidemic and grew to encompass nefarious forces the singer cryptically referred to as “the problem”) atop a tangled rodent’s nest of guitars, bass and drum.

Dull, who first discovered punk in college, compared the experience of stumbling upon the music with getting drunk for the first time (“It was like, ‘Oh my god, this is so fun’”), and said the forget-the-world attitude inherent in the form has been essential in drawing her from her shell.

“It opened my eyes to this other world … and helped me build a lot of confidence,” she said. “In the past I might have been more hesitant to take on a new responsibility at work or something, and now it’s like, ‘You know what? I’m going to take it on and see what happens.’”

Photo by Bryce Laughlin