!!! (‘Chk Chk Chk’) delivers great energy during concert in Columbus

“It’s pop and there’s no defense / Silly, it’s dumb, it’s just pretend / Comes in waves, it has nothing to say / And if you ask me, it’s better that way.”

“This Is Pop 2”, by !!!, written by Nic Offer and Joel Ford.

The tall, lanky Nic Offer took the stage at the Rumba Cafe last night without his band and nothing but an old-fashioned transistor radio in his hand, saying that when he came to a city he liked to listen to the radio local. After streaming and rejecting several selections, he came up with something much better, his band’s recorded rhythm track!!! (usually pronounced “chk chk chk”) performing what could serve as the band’s manifesto, “This Is Pop 2”. Soon the three musicians who played on the recording took to the stage and seamlessly supplanted the band.

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Already, if I had the impression that something special was in the air. With a 70-minute set, encore included, the New York group has kept this promise. By the second song “A Little Bit (More)” and its techno beat, the small club crowd was whipped into a dancing frenzy that didn’t end all night.

Admittedly, the evening was made more magical because it took place in a small crowded room. Almost the entire audience moved as synchronously as a school of hundreds of fish in the ocean. It sounded like an event that everyone present talked about for a while.

The offer went with the opportunity. Thin and tall with a head full of blonde curls, he looked like Soft Machine co-founder Kevin Ayers and acted like an animated David Johansen. From the start, he danced maniacally with his arms raised. He bounced up and down with such abandon that he came dangerously close to crashing into the giant iron beam that runs the length of the club ending above the stage. He jumped into the crowd on several occasions, visiting the sidewalk during one song and ending up at the bar going wildly pissed off during another.

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If his maniacal performance and self-conscious sense of humor were reminiscent of Russell Mael of Sparks or Robin Zander of Cheap Tricks, it was also the goofy, over-the-top dance of a rave kid.

For most of the show, singer Meah Pace not only provided Offer with tin foil, but also raised the fever with classic soul and disco vocals.

The band never let the energy hang around, as they plunged into vintage funk, disco, house and techno beats. The difference between hearing these beats delivered by a live band rather than reproduced on recordings by samples and computer files was an eye opener. And the audience responded accordingly, moving in an organic mass with the band throughout the set.

The cracking rhythm section was key, with Mario Andreoni and Rafael Cohen swapping guitars and bass and Dan Gorman on drums. During one of the high points of the evening, the two guitarists created an irrepressible groove with duels of funk riffs à la Nile Rodgers. In the opening number, Cohen delivered a scintillating solo that suggested progressive rocker Robert Fripp. Andreoni added nuance to many songs with a slew of contributions that unfortunately probably got lost in the chaos.

The 12-song performance was filled with such delights. The sassy “Un Puente” ran for an hour but was delivered in Spanish. “Panama Canal” went far for its metaphor in one of many very funny songs with Pace in the joke. The titular message of “Dancing Is The Best Revenge” was delivered to the people by the ever-errant offer, but given its emotional impact by Pace’s insistent repetition.

Best of all, the band built crescendo after crescendo as powerfully as a set played by a DJ, but did so with the spontaneity and musical skill that can only be delivered by a live band.

Columbus DJ, rapper and vocalist Opus Wild played a short opening set saturated with auto-tune and driven by seriousness.

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