Despite the end-of-summer heat wave, a crowd of twenty somethings gathered at Black Cat on U St. to dance the night away with funk-rock band Chk Chk Chk.
By Megan Buerger
Any bystander at the !!! show would have thought it was raining. It wasn’t, but it sure looked like it-the air conditioning at the Black Cat on U St. was off. With District temperatures hovering in the low ‘90s, the indie dance-funk band and their fans alike powered through a sweaty show, taking five here and there to bury their heads in nearby towels or neighbor’s t-shirts.
Neither party seemed to mind.
If you’re unfamiliar with !!!, it is helpful to know two things: (1) the band accepts any combination of thrice repeated words as their title (“Uh Uh Uh,” “Boom Boom Boom,” “Pow Pow Pow”) but the most popular pronunciation is “Chk Chk Chk,” and (2) they are known for shows that get the crowd grooving.
Last night was no different for lead singer Nic Offer, 37, who danced like it was 1985 and he was an aerobics instructor. Pumping his palms in the air and gyrating his hips to beats that resemble a fresh twist on disco (but cooler, much cooler) Offer worked the crowd into a serious sweat.Not that this was hard; Offer had the A.C. turned off early on.
“We’re going without A.C., D.C., get ready,” he shouted, warning the crowd. And then adding later, “What, you thought I was kidding?”
For a group whose shows are half-jazzercise, half-Studio 54, this was an odd request. Within 30 minutes, a small portion of over-heated fans ducked out.Still, Offer and friends maintained an impressive showing. The attendees that remained were as expected: young (ish), decked in LCD Soundsystem and Talking Heads tee-shirts and sneakers, each practically matching one of the band members on the stage.
Chk Chk Chk isn’t new to the music business. Formed in Sacramento, C.A. in 1996, their sound has changed along with their line-up over the years, as members have come and gone. Their most recent album, “Strange Weather, Isn’t It?” (Warp), released last month, is perhaps their darkest, deepest record to date, as it not-so-directly mourns the death of their former drummer, Jerry Fuchs, who died in November of last year after falling down an elevator shaft.
On the album, the group attempts to grieve by way of tracks like “Hollow” and “Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass,” but quickly bounces back to their signature pulsing bass, as if to say, “We get lost at times, but let’s dance our way home.”
Despite their optimistic sound, !!! is no stranger to tragedy; in December of 2005, the group’s original drummer Mikel Gius was struck by a car while riding his bike in Sacramento and died from the injuries he sustained. So perhaps it becomes clear why the seven-piece ensemble dances their way from show to show. Dancing seems to be their medicine, a physical therapy of sorts, gripping them up from dark times and filling the voids with endorphins until the pain has subsided.
Though their sorrow may be evident on “Strange Weather” to long-time fans, they mask it – or release it, rather – on stage. Frequently challenging concert goers to on-stage dance contests, it feels – from an onlooker’s perspective – like !!! is doing their best to keep on grooving.
“You think you can out-dance this?” Offer howled at a sweat-drenched female fan he lifted onto the platform, pointing to his oscillating hips before re-directing the challenge to the general audience. “You think you can out-dance me, DC? You got what it takes?” Then, taunting the mash of bouncing bodies beneath him, he silenced the band and whispered into his microphone, “Prove it.”
And with a spin and a few coy nods, !!! launched into a cover of “Groove Thing,” closing the books on that contest once and for all. They’ve had a long road, and all they want is a dance partner (or two.) Looks like they’ve still got it.