Live Shots: !!! lead a sweaty Saturday at the Chapel

Pub date January 27, 2014

“San Francisco, San Francisco, San Francisco,” chants !!!’s Nic Offer as he struts onto the Chapel’s glowing red stage, facing a screaming sold-out crowd.  The practicality of Offer’s typical performance outfit — tonight he is wearing beat-up, bone-white monk strap loafers, short white shorts emblazoned with the Rolling Stones’ Some Girls cover art, and a black crewneck tee — quickly becomes apparent as he races back and forth across the stage, light brown curls flying, wrapping the mic cord around his neck.  Before the first song is over he leaps on the center monitor, thrusts his pelvis forward, and generously pulls his very short pant leg open so a fan can get his money shot.  Now that’s showmanship. 

The Sacramento natives, whose careers have spanned 18 years at this point, initially earned a spot in the hearts of heathens across the country for drug-jam favorites like “Hello? Is This Thing On?” and “Me and Guiliani Down By The Schoolyard — A True Story,” both tracks off of 2004’s Louden Up Now.  The band quickly became synonymous with the ambiguous genre “dance-punk” — a classification they shared with other saxophone aficionados, The Rapture, as well as fellow Californians, Moving Units — but with their more recent efforts !!! has made a departure from their christened moniker and has adopted a warmer, less anxious sound.  Crisp disco beats and a smooth sax mark this transition on their newest album, 2013’s Thr!!!er, a record that encourages slinky grooving as opposed to unruly slamming on the dance floor. 

Saturday’s second song of the evening, “Californiyeah,” had Offer jumping into the crowd (as he does) and gyrating with, and at, fans who were apparently already drunk enough to not protest the lyrics that went, “Now I miss California almost as much as I miss you/But why would I live somewhere/Where the bars close at 2?/That ain’t right, that ain’t right.”  The set consisted of mostly new material, with performances of the spiraling, clap-fest “Slyd” being among the favorites. 

The rest of the band let their musicianship take the front seat throughout the evening and appeared reserved, even stoic, though perhaps it only seemed that way in contrast with vocalist Offer’s tireless presence (his dancing can best be described as traffic cop-meets-cheerleader).  Other highlights included “One Girl/One Boy,” a poppy, bass-heavy number that’s reminiscent of last summer’s inescapable hit “Get Lucky” — in fact, it could be said !!!’s track acted as an aperitif of sorts for the Daft Punk onslaught we were going to experience, being released only two weeks prior to the disco-doused behemoth). 

The Chapel was packed (this was a sold-out show) and the band had the crowd sweating it up before long, exuding impressive control over the room even on songs that teetered at the edge of chaos.  One would think that things would mellow out somewhat as they started to play “AM/FM,” a considerably more reserved track off their fourth album, Strange Weather, Isn’t It?, but the fans’ enthusiasm was relentless and unavoidable, as hands jutted into the air and girls in the front danced like battling robots.  Right before the obligatory encore, the overwhelming feeling could best be described as clammy.  Anyone with hair past their shoulders unfortunate enough to not have a rubber band was sporting the Cher Horowitz side-flip hair in efforts to cool off — as if.  Meanwhile, Offer resembled a ’70s gym teacher/porn star with his once-white-now-grey-sweat-stained shorts and a white gym towel draped around his neck.  He laughed into the audience, his lyrics from earlier — “I miss Sac and I miss the bay (Ain’t that right)” — resonating into the night.