San Francisco Bathhouse
May 29 | Reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam

THE BAND with the ungoogleable name came to Wellington armed with a bit of hype from their memorable Auckland show, and their dance-punk/funk/angular guitaring was sure to get the indie kids moving their feet along with their heads. And they got a good groove on – their polyrhythms and riffage were impressively relentless – and the crowd got moving and shaking. The singer, Nic Offer, did his best to distract me though. His un-self-conscious (which I suppose is kinda cool in his not caring) moving reminded me a little too much of Will Ferrell playing the cowbell on the famous Saturday Night Live sketch, and his voice scrambled to try and hit a note but rarely found it. He played the cowbell well though.

So So Modern, who opened, have been hiding in their caves since their return to New Zealand from Europe etc. I don’t know if this was a one-off, but their show was murky, sludgy, as if their usual happy pills had turned dystopian. Maybe the sound shocked the crowd, or maybe their usual acolytes weren’t there, but they had a subdued response. It did however push their new songs to the foreground. The sound mix may explain the muddiness, but the songs were more abrasive and challenging (even some of their older songs didn’t escape the re-structuring). Their use of harmonies and little fissures, their ratcheting of tension and their wielding of influences ranging from ambient to industrial, effortlessly show that So So Modern are constantly thinking about their craft and doing stuff most bands around the country are too scared to even consider.

But the crowd were amped for !!!’s performance, even if they were a little quiet throughout. The front row was lined with hand-shake friendly girls, and glistening cameras. Nic Offer did his best to interact with them, sharing his water bottle with the crowd (he probably hasn’t seen the meningitis campaigns), and performing in their midst. The band mainly ran through material from 2007’s Myth Takes (their best album) – a particular set highlight being the moody ‘Must Be the Moon’. They also showcased some new material, which continued the edgy !!! template which has proven highly successful. While I found Nic Offer’s voice a tad frustrating, he did use it as an object of rhythm which was another layer onto their beat (the soul singing didn’t quite fit though to be honest). However, the drumming and bass playing was brilliant, and their undisputed live show weapon. It was muscular, clammy, and well, funky. Their set flew past, but they did leave the crowd hollering for more. I’m not one who believes in obligatory, perfunctory encores, but their main set closer could have left the crowd fizzing a bit more. Instead, the audience were left to dance away to LCD Soundsystem on the PA as the lights grumbled back on.