Avalon, Sept. 26
Reviews and pictures by Jonah Flicker
!!! lived up to its punctuation at its Hollywood appearance last night, delivering an exclamatory performance that was equal parts rave, punk, and hippie jam band. The former elements were obvious, as this O.G. of the dance-punk world (I know, that term is so 2002) worked the crowd into a lathered frenzy through tightly wound beats and flippant, loose energy. But it’s the hippie shit that really strikes you, as their live show makes it evident that !!! is a jam band at heart. It’s partly bass player and producer Justin Van Der Volgen’s Shaggy appearance and stoned two-step, causing one to ponder just how many Scooby snacks he’s ingested. But it’s mostly the band’s ability to turn even the most rigid techno into nine-minute excursions of free-flowing improvisation. Frontman Nic Offer’s buoyant showmanship, helped out generously by a backup singer (who I would name if my Google search turned up anything!), hyped up the crowd with pure, unfettered rock maneuvers. At one point, he asked an audience member to grab his nuts, assuring the unlucky participant that they’d only be touching his jeans since his junk was actually crammed high up in the crotch area. I bet Robert Plant never tried to pull that off.
The set was mostly culled from !!!’s latest, Myth Takes, an excellent album that expands upon the band’s signature sound without straying too far. Offer’s often-simpleminded lyrics sounded much better live, as on the throbbing nightclub hookup anthem, “Must Be the Moon” (“One drink, two drinks, three drinks, four / She had eyes that I couldn’t ignore”). But it’s epic dance-floor bangers like “Bend Over Beethoven” and the soulful “Heart of Hearts” that tipped the band into musical tumult, as members took a communal approach, sharing samplers and percussion in their frantic efforts to rock. One misstep of the night was a cover version of Nate Dogg’s “Get Up,” which sounded silly and kind of pandering, as hip-hop songs tend to do when performed by indie rock bands. Nevertheless, !!! can’t be accused of hipster irony here, as they seemed to take this song as seriously as everything else on this night. This is a band that truly comes to life onstage, and nary an ass was left unshaken.