Noise Pop 2013: !!!, White Arrows, the Mallard at Great American Music Hall

Pub date March 1, 2013

It’s hard to be Nic Offer. Not because he’s a tortured artist struggling with celebrity or some other cliche, but because he busts it on stage in a way that’s difficult to match. A couple songs into !!!/Chk Chk Chk‘s Noise Pop show at the Great American Music Hall last night, the lead singer and number one dancer hustled along the row of tables between the crowd and the stage. “I need my catwalk,” he said, picking up all the glasses, water cups, and beer bottles along the way.

Anyone who has seen a !!! show knows that Offer is hyperkinetic. (He comes prepared to dance, dressed in a t-shirt and short shorts, a combination that reminds me of drummer Pat Mahoney, who would be similarly attired for endurance pushing set with LCD Soundsystem.)

This time around, Offer seemed especially energized, probably because the band was debuting material from the upcoming album Thr!!!er, including “One Girl / One Boy” and “Except Death.” The funky, acid-house infused “Slyd” was supposedly played by the band for the first time in a live setting, and Offer and company seemed pleased to pull off the sample-heavy track.

The singer made a big deal of it, but it was just one of many things he made look relatively easy. Perhaps a little too easy: near the end of !!!’s performance, the hyped up bass player from White Arrows hopped on stage. As the cocktail table toppled, the stage dive became a corgy flop.

White Arrows – its pseudo psychedelic pop is getting better all the time, although the band no longer seems to be coordinating thrift store Hawaiian shirts. The drummer has a nice predilection for irregular, semi-tribal beats, and the keyboardist’s falsetto sounded nice harmonizing with the singer’s drawl near the end of the set.

The Mallard – “hell of a screeching, bass-pumping build for an opener” is what I initially wrote down, seconds after the San Francisco band got going. Then it built and built, with lead singer Greer McGettrick seemingly telling a story in a way reminiscent of “The Gift.” The mix was off in a way that lost the narrative, but sonically it was interesting, complete with a kind of drone I’d never heard before via a live horn.

It was also assaultive; next to the speaker it felt like the back of my throat was full of Rice Crispies and Pop Rocks. By the end, stretching across the Mallard’s whole set, I started to pick up more of the lyrics – 911 calls and sirens – as McGettrick started eerily circling the crowd, intoning “There’s been a muhmuhmuhmuhmuh-murdah.” More Noise than Pop, it was the kind of opening that makes you super excited to hear the second song, and desperately hoping it doesn’t sound like the first. Which was probably why the trio camped out next to the stage with their fingers in their ears looked relieved when it turned out to be the band’s only one for the night. [Ed. note: apparently the Mallard was doing an extended cover of Throbbing Gristle last night]

The Yellow Dogs – the band looked like the Iranian Strokes, sounded like a speedier version of the Rapture crossed with a little Mars Volta, and sang wildly like the B-52s. They supposedly drove four days to get to the show, only to break down an hour away. They said it was worth it to perform with their favorite band, and the way the singer moved, I believe it.