Bumbershoot !!! (Chk Chk Chk if You’re Google)
posted by August 31 at 12:26 PMon
!!! by Kelly O
There was, for me, no conflict whatsoever about skipping Beck to watch !!! last night. Despite the jabs at Beck’s Fluxus-friendly faith in the Stranger’s Bumbershoot Guide, I don’t have anything against the guy as an entertainer—and he is one hell of an entertainer. I even like a lot of his music; it’s just been several years since he’s made a record that would get me to brave the Memorial Stadium crowd (where, btw, I heard the sound was ass for his set). Really, the choice was simple: somewhere in the Stadium and craning my neck at Beck, or right up front dancing my ass off to !!!? Easy.
!!! by Kelly O
!!!, though, are not quite the band I remembered. They’ve been through some line-up changes lately, losing both sometimes vocalist John Pugh (now with electro funk duo Free Blood) and mixer/musician extraordinaire Justin Van Der Volgen, who’s doing who-knows-what, as well as their whole horn section. Seattle expat Shannon Funchess has replaced Pugh on vocals, and while she brings a lot of style and some serious pipes to the mix, it’s still a very different animal than !!!’s old, sprawling, brass-enhanced disco beast. The horns are made up for with the addition of more keyboards and effects, although often the band just plays stripped down to percussion, bass, guitar, and vocals. Frontman Nic Offer responding to some audience request by saying their new drummer didn’t know how to play that song, in fact, he said, “He doesn’t know how to play any of the songs we don’t like playing!” The same audience member must have asked Offer to strip, because he then said, “You take your clothes off…So don’t ask for something you can’t give. You can’t play ‘Intensify,’ either!” He remains a deeply funny dude, but it was definitely a bummer that the band didn’t break out old hits like “Me & Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard (A True Story)” or “Intensify.”
Offer wouldn’t have had much clothing to take off anyway, though, as he was just wearing short shorts, a t-shirt, and some slip-ons. Another band member was wearing shorts but had towels duct taped around his legs. It seemed like these guys were as surprised by the screeching halt of Seattle’s summer as the rest of us. But Offer said that while he was freezing backstage, he was feeling fine up on stage, and indeed after a couple songs, with the crowd dancing and pogoing and just generally causing friction, things warmed up nicely. (A note to the people who stand right up front for a dance band, don’t dance, and then look aghast every time some reveler nudges into them a tiny bit: Kindly fuck off. I don’t dance in the front row for Neko Case, don’t bum my party for !!!.)
In fact, all the non-dancers must’ve kindly fucked off, because a few songs into the set, the whole crowd (at least as far as I could see) was moving. Highlights of the set included Yadnus,” “Must Be the Moon,” “Heart of Hearts,” and whatever song they played off their first album (“Feel Good Hit of the Fall”? “Kookooka Fuk-U”? I forget). Also fine if not outstanding were the handful of new songs the band played out; no new anthems on the level of their old hits, but everything sounded groovy enough, playing well to the band’s new strengths (ie, synths and Funchess). (A side note: the band’s new lineup, with the synths and all, really made me miss Outhud and hope that they might strike some of those style grooves in their new stuff. They don’t, and I can’t help but wonder if their new stuff might sound more that way if Van Der Volgen was still on board.)
!!! by Kelly O
The best moment by far, though, was when Funchess had them bring the stage lights all the way down and told the crowd to imagine they were at a rave (“You ever been to a rave?”) an hour or so outside of Seattle with a couple thousand of their closest friends. And with the lights down and the whole crowd moving, it sure as hell felt like a renegade massive in the middle of a field rather than a big, caged-in music festival. After that party there was just no question of whether I was going to try to catch the last few songs of Beck—there was no way it could have been anything but a let-down.