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Gig Review: !!! @ Strange Brew

The crowd sucked, until they didn’t.

!!! / Tim Saccenti

by Ally Chapman, Second Year Politics and International Relations

Two songs into the set and I have my opening line. “The crowd sucks, but it doesn’t matter.” !!! (pronounced as whichever three monosyllabic sounds you most enjoy, ‘Chk Chk Chk’ for example) are now modern disco stalwarts, part of a rich legacy of indie dance music - but it is a legacy.

Tonight’s audience is mostly fathers and the occasional mother doing the universal daughter’s-wedding-shoulder-dance in remembrance of the long-gone nights where they could pull any other move without pulling a muscle. Frontman Nic Offer clearly hasn’t received either message as he gyrates on top of an amplifier stack, not two minutes into the set of almost entirely new material. All the better for it, but I’ve seen how these people responded to Alan Vega revivalist opening act Baba Ali (that is to say, they didn’t, though Baba Ali’s set was pretty great). My snarky-but-positive review is already coming together. Music journalism, baby.

Except - and it brings me immense joy to tell you this - Offer and company spend the remaining hour of the show systematically and completely proving me wrong. Watch any Pow Pow Pow live video and you will quickly understand that the singer’s signature technique is charging into the crowd and dancing along with them, individually and as a group. What I didn’t realise in those first two minutes is just how well this works. Bearded middle-aged man, front row, camo trousers, harsh glare; Nic Offer stumbles through a cha-cha with him once and he’s dancing for the rest of the show. Flat-cap husband, dyed-ginger wife, probably liked the band back in the day but I would wager from the opener have been away from gigs long enough not to know the etiquette anymore; she ends the concert with her hands up as a disco disciple and Mr. Brewdog ends up having the nimblest feet and hips of anyone in Strange Brew. Yes, I danced with Nic Offer too, but it’s not a flex; he surely holds the world record for dancing with the most people, ever. By god, he found every single person in that venue, individually, and got them in the groove. It was a miracle. We get halfway through the set, the energy is off the charts, and Dut Dut Dut pull out the sole legacy song of the night - though ‘legacy’ in this case means 2015’s All U Writers, relatively recent considering they debuted in 1999. It doesn’t matter. The band is still good. Just as good as before. It’s a miracle.

That’s the thing about 2000s dance-punk: it’s really, really, really dead. Most young people can’t name the band who made Take Me Out and LCD Soundsystem, though I love them, staked their career on skewering a pop culture that doesn’t exist anymore. Bosh Bosh Bosh were, secretly but consistently, the band that most emphasised the importance of both words in dance-punk. That’s granted them a strange immunity from nostalgia circuit indifference. Their priorities never changed, and their main priority is having fun. Of course, that’s the ‘dance’ sorted - but their music remains intensely punk as well. It’s just a slightly different definition than many expect. Liberation through artistic expression can also cover joyousness, fun; unashamedly ending your set with cheesy individual solos from each band member (and it works). Pop Pop Pop is all about freedom, they always have been, and their refusal to live in the past is entirely in keeping with this ethos. It is incredibly gratifying to let them destroy your cynicism for the night.

The crowd sucked, until they didn’t.

Featured Image: Tim Saccenti

Have YOU ever danced with Nic Offer?