New York-via-Sacramento outfit !!! (typically sounded out as “Chk Chk Chk”) have been tagged with a lot of styles — punk, funk, disco, “Brooklyn” — but the band is at heart a dance outfit, getting listeners to move by any means necessary. The band stopped at Great Scott Friday as it continued its “punk dog tour,” a chance to try out some new material before heading back into the studio to follow up its 2013 album Thr!!!er (Touch & Go).
Frontman Nic Offer was a dynamic MC, exhorting the crowd to get involved when he wasn’t tossing out lyrics. The band paced the nervous energy of the flinty “Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass” perfectly, choreographing the room’s eventual burst of energy down to the millisecond. That track was paired with a lengthy, sweaty take on “Me & Giuliani Down By The School Yard (A True Story),” a winding funk jam that implicitly compares the former New York mayor, who cracked down on dance clubs during his tenure, to the tsk-tsking authorities in “Footloose.” “Giuliani” has been one of the band’s signature tracks since its 2003 release, existing for its formidable length in the place where post-punk’s agitated guitars and funk’s commitment to the low end comingle, and Friday’s performance was a testament as to why.
The band used the intimate size of Great Scott to its advantage, mingling with the crowd often. Despite being unfamiliar, the new songs induced dancing — like the band’s other prime material, they smash together punk agitation and dance music’s readiness to take on the world — although the close quarters and Offer’s hyperkinetic style likely helped temper any resistance. During “Bitter Lemon” Offer hopped offstage, making his way through the room in a manner that made it seem like he was checking that each corner was filled with people shimmying along to his band’s beats.
The wistful Thr!!!er cut “One Girl/One Boy” requires a female vocal, and the attendee brought up to handle it had actually performed it with the band once before — and she unsurprisingly nailed her part, adding just a touch of sadness to the night. The band came back for a brief encore, which Offer admitted was a bit of a ruse given Great Scott’s backstage transparency, and the stage filled with so many audience members it obscured the musicians. It seemed to end as soon as it began, although that taste — smartly, given this brief club tour’s purpose — left the crowd wanting more.Maura Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.