Friday, July 18, 2008

!!! in Cambridge, MA 7/17/08

Though an lesser known musical genre, “dance-punk” is straightforwardly named. Part electronica, part in your face rock, no band better deserves the label that !!!.

For those not in the know, that’s not a typo, it’s the band’s name, pronounced by saying the same sound three times in a row (for exactly “bam bam bam,” or “quack quack quack,” or “tiz tiz tiz”). Common practice has them pronounced “chk chk chk” though, and they’ve exploded in the blog world with frenetic dance songs, loud guitar combined with louder beats. They’ve gotten a reputation for explosive sweat-drenched live shows, and the tiny Middle East seemed the perfect place to experience this.

First the crowd, already tired from an unexplained two and a half hours between door time and the show’s start, had to endure the noise-attack of Dragons of Zynth. A clear Mars Volta knock-off, they were loud and unpleasant, lacking any of the latter band’s sense of nuance and tension. Instead, the Dragons just seemed to be playing four unpleasant songs at once, creating a shrill cacophony that seemed to have no purpose other than irritate. The band seemed disinterested; even when the lead singer moved around the stage, he appeared to be going through the motions and getting no more enjoyment out of his music than the audience. With the headliner band all about danceable fun, why they brought a grating noise band along is anyone’s guess.

Energy-wise, !!! could not have been more different. In their hour-long set, the seven-member crew jumped and danced around as much as they played. Lead singer Nic Offer is a character in his own right, rocking a pair of 80’s short shorts and neon tee as he yelled his way through one breakneck song after the next. Like Devo for the 21st century, sax solos and synth samples gave the group enough momentum that traditional “tunes” were rarely necessary. When mohawked singer Shannon Funchess joined them though, she proved she had talent beyond just nonstop dance moves, belting and rapping in turns. New songs were mixed with old and, if they all kind of sounded the same, that was the point. It was a dance show, and too much experimentation would just kill the vibe.

The vibe, however, wasn’t doing so hot on its own. The frenetic dancing onstage did not inspire the hot and tired crowd beyond a few token jumps and claps. Even when Offer danced through the packed floor, no one seemed too inclined to follow his lead. The band gave it their all anyway though, laying out disco beat after break beat – many created by up to four drummers – to try to generate a rock rave. With enough energy it could have been the party of the month, but unfortunately the Thursday night crowd did not give back the love they got.

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