!!! Live at The Sinclair

chkchkchk1Short-shorts showing miles of man-thigh, sweat glistening everywhere, and ceaseless hip gyrations: these sound like the ingredients for something seedy—instead they were some of the key aspects of the !!! show at the Sinclair on Thursday night, a concert experience that truly was out of this world. Then again, the unexpected is to be expected from !!! (pronounced most commonly as Chk-Chk-Chk, although the six piece band has said that any monosyllabic sound repeated three times will do), as they are musicians who have been pushing the music envelope since 1996 with a sound that is indie, psychedelic, jam-band, and a little punk. It was obvious from the crowd that !!! has built up a devoted and eccentric cult-like fanbase. The concrete floor of the Sinclair was full with a strange mixture of young professionals eager to cut loose, hippie types, some dads, and some full-on hipsters, everyone with a drink in hand, somewhat subdued and awkward.

Until the lights dimmed, where there then was a collective and instantaneous awakening amongst the !!! fans. It seemed they all knew what they were in for as Nic Offer, the frontman, stomped proudly onto the stage in a pair of extreme short-shorts (or swim trunks, or boxers, the specifics are debatable), taking a powerful stance center-stage as the rest of the band assembled amongst their respective instruments. The screaming and frenzy of the crowd kicked in as the fans pushed forward, so Offer gave a smug little smile and swung right into their opening song: the groovy, danceable, and new “Get That Rhythm Right.” With an assured and flamboyant attitude, Offer jerked his entire body as he maneuvered across the stage, movements punctuated by the guitar that carried the hook of the song. Within moments everyone in the audience was mimicking Offer’s wild motions and it became clear that if you weren’t dancing, you weren’t welcome.

It also became clear from the very beginning that the show was going to operate as a give-and-take experience. The audience was not made up merely of spectators; instead, they were active participants. From the get-go, Offer was aggressive in his performance, skirting dangerously close to the edge of the stage as he danced, thrusting his hips and kicking his legs up into the crowd. During the third song of the night, “Jack Ruby,” his bandmates diligently grooved on their instruments on stage as Offer nonchalantly hopped into the crowd, dancing amongst his devoted fans, obviously thrilled by their enthusiasm. Several songs later, Offer provided a special opportunity for one fan.

“Is Brittni with an ‘I’ here?” he asked, and as she approached from the crowd, Offer explained the last minute social media contest where they invited fans to post YouTube videos of themselves singing “One Girl / One Boy,” one of their most popular tracks from 2013’s Thr!!!ler. It was !!!’s first time doing the contest, but the addition of Brittni on “One Boy / One Girl” was a success and necessary for the full sound the album recording has. Her dance moves and sassy attitude only added to the hyped up vibes incited by the uber 70s-sounding and addictive track, her performance giving Offer’s a run for his money.

As the night went on, Offer didn’t stray from his intense stage presence. From the first song until the end of the encore (a lengthened version of 2000’s “Intensify” from their first LP), Offer was a dream of a frontman, drenched in sweat and shaking his perspiration into the crowd as he threw his head back and forth to the beat. There is a strange disconnect from watching !!! perform, as it just feels like watching Offer, even though there are five other members of the band. Unlike Offer’s dynamic presence, the other members simply stood in a line and looked down at their instruments. They were talented but their lack of presence seemed particularly out of place when juxtaposed with Offer’s dancing. Perhaps it would have been too much for every member to bring the same energy as Offer, but having both ends of the performance spectrum represented on stage was distracting.

Regardless, the band had a solid set-list that managed to cover many of their hits from over the years. A particularly memorable moment was the fusing of “Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass” from Strange Weather, Isn’t It? and “Me and Guilliani Down By The Schoolyard – A True Story” from the 2004 release, Widen Up. The latter has a catchy, repetitive hook where Offer commands everyone to “cut loose.” Also amongst the newer songs from their latest album, Thriller, were standouts such as “Except Death,” where Offer’s impressive falsetto killed it, and “Slyd,” which got the audiences clapping their hands and was possibly the most violent that Offer’s hip gyrations became that night. The final two songs before the encore were both from Myth Takes, a 2007 release, and were the dance-70s-influenced tracks, “Heart of Hearts” and “Yadnus.”

Several more times throughout the show, Offer found his way back into the crowd, trailing the wire of the mic over people’s heads as the sound crew worked frantically to uncoil the wire so the mic could extend. When he wasn’t amongst his fans, he stood on the edge of the stage, gripping the outstretched hands of a group of people who were quickly becoming out of control, as girls standing in the front threw water all over Offer before the encore of “Intensify.” Offer took it in stride, though, and once again leapt into the crowd. The audience, electrified by Offer’s energy, were unwilling to let the night come to an end, but finally, a little after midnight, it came to its final and sweaty last note. It’s not often one experiences a show that is so exhausting, but from Offer’s passion alone, it’s impossible to feel anything but after attending a !!! show.

By Libby Webster

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