We Can Dance (Or Not Dance) If We Want To
!!! Punctuates the Everglades
By Julia Reidy
At Langerado, flowing skirts and baggy shorts are the rule. Powerhouse dance band !!! (pronounced Chk Chk Chk) sees rules, nods politely, then turns around and breaks them. During the band’s dinnertime set, Nic Offer gyrated, grabbed both his privates and his mic, strutted and generally busted a move, swaggeringly sporting the skinniest jeans and whitest shoes yet spotted this weekend, by far. Bassist Justin Van Der Volgen wore a neon M.I.A. T-shirt. This stuff’s not your usual Florida-festival fare.
Electro-pop is not an easy pill for a jam-heavy festival to swallow, but !!! didn’t just make the crowd take their medicine; every tongue was tied and every mouth was full of the band’s barely pronouncable name. Their schizophrenic, kinetic performance filled the narrow field and its ankle-deep mud. The seven frantic musicians provided excellent sloshin’ music. Offer absorbed his environment, telling the crowd, “If I’d known what kind of festival this was, I wouldn’t have cut my hair.”
The six men and one woman engaged in heavy bouts of instrument-swapping. Offer took turns on the band’s second drum kit while new addition Shannon Funchess sang soulfully and with as much gusto as required for any !!! frontperson. Saxophones emerged from behind cymbals. Offer and Funchess each leapt from the eight-foot stage into the photo pit to sing from the ground while pressed against the crowd barrier. Mouth open wide, one hand in the air, Offer and !!! sent shock waves through the swamp.
Martsching Toward Guitar God Status
By Sara Miller
Doug Martsch, the lead singer and guitarist of Built To Spill, does not pogo. Doug Martsch does not thrash around. Doug Martsch does not do air kicks, windmill arms, or splits. What Doug Martsch does—and he does it better than just about anyone in the business—is play the living hell out of the guitar. The boys from Boise had a somewhat unfortunate time slot, playing opposite The Roots, but if they were bothered it didn’t show. Martsch stood tall and stoic as a Ponderosa pine, elegantly destroying the conventional wisdom of guitar solos with just a pick and his suitcase full of pedals.
Built To Spill began as a trio but mutated into a five-piece during the recording of the most recent BTS album, last year’s You in Reverse, with fellow guitarists Brett Netson and Jim Roth compounding the already gut-rumbling axe onslaught. The band’s current lineup is the tightest yet—in concert, they take Martsch’s already lengthy songs and extend them into space-jam territory. Strangely, this riffage never comes off as wankery; it somehow manages to trim the excess of both the older and more recent BTS songs. Martsch’s unique, formerly reed-thin voice has aged remarkably well. In fact, it sounds richer and fuller than on previous tours. Whatever he’s doing (drinking sourwood honey, maybe?) is working.
At the tucked-away-in-the-corner Chickee Hut stage, the crowd yelled (and yelled, and kept yelling) for “Car,” the mixtape favorite from Built to Spill’s seminal 1994 album There’s Nothing Wrong With Love. Martsch didn’t indulge, but he kept the banter friendly (albeit minimal) throughout the set. When the band kicked into its final song, “Carry The Zero” (the blistering kiss-off from 1999’s Keep It Like A Secret), the “Car” shouts finally stopped as eager fans instead used their lungs to scream along with one of the best songs of the ‘90s. And lo, without histrionics or hyperbole, it was glorious.