Bowery Ballroom (3), 16 May 2007
One day when I'm trucking around in my own personal Rascal and my grandkids ask why I can't stand up and play with them I'll think back to nights like last Wednesday when I saw !!! play at the Bowery Ballroom. It's been almost a week and there still is something wrong with my knee. You see, I went to a super funtime dance party and a freakin' mosh pit broke out.
But, let's back up a few songs. Call 'em ChkChkChk, or Shift-1Shift-1Shift-1, these guys really do put an exclamation point on everything they do. Verb personified -- forgive the blurry photos, it's tough to take a picture of something that doesn't stop moving... a caveat that borders on ridiculous by the end of this review. They popped out on stage and laid right into it, just like they do on their fantastic "Myth Takes." Just like the album, the first thing you hear is that elastic bass bopping through the air: front to back, side to side, in and out. Good funk music starts and ends with the bass. Not so much that everyone is George Porter, but they got to be in command. These guys have that down. I wanted to take that low end, spray it in a paper bag and huff it til I could hear my synapses sizzle.
The rest of the band is what I call the Noah's Ark complex(TM): two of everything. Two guys up front, two drummers, two guitar players... sometimes mixing and matching, a keyboard in there and some percussion as well. There was no emphasis on musicianship, though. Come to think of it, there wasn't any emphasis on songs even. At least not the show I was experiencing. It was just bam, bam, bam from start to finish. If you had to translate the 80 minutes of music to one word, it would be: "fun." I can't imagine a more fun night of just pure boogie.
And it was totally infectious. The lead guy had a wonderful, don't-give-a-shit geekiness to his onstage gesticulations that gave the signal to the hipsteratti: it's OK to dance... and look stupid. I didn't need to be told twice and the audience was particularly hip to movement for a Wednesday night at the Bowery.
There was no ebb or flow to the set. It started here [indicates level near nose] and ended here [raises level to just above forehead]. Occasionally things would stretch out a little bit, the band kind of sinking into an extra groovy thing that needed a little something more to keep it going. Guitars wailed occasionally, but really, this music was pure rhythm section. The drums and percussion and bass just automatic weapons with the safety turned off from beginning to end. The extra energy boost finally came in the form of a little spark plug of a female guest vocalist.
Just like the rest of the band, she didn't make an impression with some major pipes or nothing, she just done brung it and everything just leaped a level to keep up. I couldn't resist taking a break from getting my boogie on and snapping a few pictures of her as she hovered over the crowd and it may have been a second after this one (I call it "Look out below!"):
that my journey to handicapped parking started in earnest. She was there on stage and the next thing I knew I felt something that in hockey would be referred to as a "hip check." She dove into the crowd, took out the guy next to me and set fire to a very short fuse that exploded into the crowd around us (after ensuring that both the projectile and her target were A-OK) resulting in full bore mosh pit. As far as those go, this was pretty tame, we were wearing ironic t-shirts and all, but good, clean pushing and shoving nonetheless... not what I was expecting when I left the house.
So: !!! = Buy the album! Go see 'em live! Wear a helmet!
Openers were Holy Fuck. The jokes write themselves, for sure. More mediocre instrumental music. They weren't bad really, they just weren't good, per se. It was a quartet and at least two of the "musicians" were superfluous. Take your pick as to which two, not sure it would make a difference. Drummer and bass player were actually playing stuff. The other two guys kind of danced and maybe were playing keyboards, but mostly they were just plugging shit in and unplugging other things and making a lot of noise, which included, somewhat quixotically, a lot of drums and bass. It was high energy and didn't offend and made me move a little bit, but there was no creativity being exhibited and very little skill on display. It was like watching someone play Operation really well. Maybe that's entertaining, but I'm not letting him perform surgery on me. Either that or 2 degrees away from getting inebriated and enjoying someone else's performance in Guitar Hero. Without the name, there's very little there there. What astounds me is that 90% of the dudes at that show would scoff at any 3rd tier Jamband who's doing instrumental music at a higher level of creativity and groovitude. I don't know why this continues to surprise me, but it does.
21 May 2007