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It’s OK to dance

PARTY STARTERS: Dance band !!! plays Revolution.
  • PARTY STARTERS: Dance band !!! plays Revolution.

In the year of our Lord, I'd guess around 2002, a handful of fashionable, if un-ironic, rock acts from fashionable, totally ironic neighborhoods of San Francisco and New York City revived a lost American pastime: social dancing.

Presumably lost somewhere between the raids on Studio 54 and the end of John Cheever's writing career, dancing had languished through an increasingly technic hip-hop landscape, to say nothing of the rise of grunge. It returned as bands like the Rapture, Out Hud and their sister band !!! (pronounced as the repetition of any emphatic monosyllabic word, usually “chk chk chk”) released a handful of well-reviewed singles that remembered that dance wasn't limited to Detroit wonks with 808s, but name-checked a lost, but previously omnipresent alliance between dance music and guitar rock: Madchester to Chic to the oft-mentioned Gang of Four.

On Oct. 3 at Revolution, !!! will take a victory lap for their own influence in vocalist/percussionist John Pugh's first home, Little Rock. Believe it or not, !!!, one of the most heralded and lively dance acts of our young decade, has a part of its roots in the fertile Little Rock punk soil of the late 1980s, as documented by therecent rock documentary, “Towncraft.”

Born from the ashes of Black Liquorice and Popesmashers, !!! began their career as a well-known all-night party band in Sacramento, and later, moved to the hipper climes of the Bay Area, Portland and New York. The band made its name on the strength of several wildly popular singles, particularly the surprise UK dance hit of 2004, “Me and Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard,” which catapulted it to transatlantic success, landing an opening slot on the Red Hot Chili Peppers' European tour.

!!!'s songwriting, as the band has said in interviews, is a slave to a thoroughly un-hip process — jammin'. “Anything can happen in the jam,” singer Nic Offer told the Dutch magazine “Toazted,” explaining the chaotic and diverse set of influences on their current work. The band, in an interview with the Village Voice, claims a kinship to chestnuts like Parliament and Chic, but one can hear a wider-ranging, and slightly spazzier palette (Afrika Bambataa, “Remain in Light”-era Talking Heads, “Let The Music Play,” Prince) throughout their material.

“Myth Takes,” released earlier this year, offers a previously unheard thematic cohesion to their album work (previous albums sounded enthusiastic, if disjointed and more rock-inflected), and an increasing interest in electronic washes and atmospherics.

If web footage is any indication, success has not spoiled !!! — their live shows are as rowdy and trance-inducing as ever. Interpretive dance, amp-grinding, denim cutoffs and audience sing-a-longs all come included, as well as a performance from opening act the Field. A sober counterpart only by comparison, the Field (alias of Swedish DJ Axel Willner) represents the buzzy and increasingly famous Kompakt label. Like !!!, Willner bridges the gap between head-scratching minimal techno and guitar funk, but lands more firmly on the side of sequencing and beat. Expect left and right brain to receive equal stimulation, but bring all your pants for dancing, and come early — acts like these are sure to draw hordes.

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