!!! – Lilla Vega, Copenhagen 27/5/2017

People always ask me, “What’s so fucking great about dancing?”

Saturday 27th May 2017. It’s one of those days that feels like the Earth’s on fire. One of those days where it doesn’t matter what you wear just as long as it involves sunscreen, ice cubes and a hat. We (me and my better half, Pernilla), are in Copenhagen to see !!! play live. By midday all the roads have melted away and the buildings are groaning in the heat. The only thing to do is stay in the shade and drink cold beers. Which is exactly what we do.

We kind of knew the gig wasn’t going to be packed when the guy checking our tickets at the door merrily informed us that we were the first to arrive, despite the fact that the doors had been open for thirty minutes. The thing is this gig has already been scaled down from Vega (1,500 capacity) to Lilla Vega (500 capacity). We shrug our shoulders, ‘fuck it, let’s grab a beer’.

I’ve kind of gotten used to the fact that most of the concerts I go to nowadays are populated by a certain type. Older men (I’m 44), usually bearded, tattooed, suit jacket and jeans, you know the type. So it was a bit of a shock when the next person to arrive after us was an old lady with a Zimmer frame. Gulp. Twenty minutes later when support act, Sousa/Schmidt, hit the stage there are sixteen of us in the room.

Sousa/Schmidt are a DJ duo hooked on the good time vibes of ‘70s disco. Cue plenty of rubbery funk-baselines, wah-wah guitars and easy to mix drums. The room slowly starts to come alive during their set, there’s a fair bit of ironic dancing, no doubt from a generation that have grown up with John Travolta and Uma Thurman’s Pulp Fiction dance as a template for how to throw shapes on the dance floor.

Sousa/Schmidt do their best to keep the handful of dancers happy, but to be honest they’re fighting a losing battle. As much as they enjoy knocking the bass out of songs before punching it back in with a nod to each other as if they’re some kind of musical alchemists, it gets a little dull after a while. So we turn our attention to the dribs and drabs arriving. There’s a skinhead guy who looks like Mads Mikkelsen’s character in Pusher. Very intense. He’s obviously off his face and is trying to work out how this dancing thing works. So while staring menacingly around the room he’s also waving his left arm in the air and doing little moves with his feet. None of it in time with the music chugging around the near empty room.

More and more people arrive, to the point that I stop bothering to count them. We must be up to almost forty of us now. Most look like they’ve just come from a hen do or are on a work’s outing. There’s an older woman with an orange balloon who is dancing around in circles. I feel like we’ve crashed a wedding. Never before has such a small venue felt so big.

By the time !!! bounce onstage the crowd is probably eighty strong. Which is bad by most standards but must be really depressing for a band that have been around for twenty years and whose latest LP is less than a month old. Despite this !!! play as if they’re headlining Glastonbury. They sound like Flight of the Conchords covering Prince, only way funkier. The band are tight, James Brown would be proud.

Frontman Nic Offer is so much more than just a singer. He does that thing that all the best frontmen do, he’s that all important connection between band and audience. He bounds out and for the next sixty minutes breaks down any barriers that exist between ‘us’ and ‘them’. He gyrates, spastic-dances, gurns and generally camps it up. At one point he hides behind some curtains at the side of the stage. He’s the kid that shit himself on the school bus once and realised that nothing would ever be the same after that. His voguing encourages the crowd to do the same. No inhibitions, all party.

Of course he also sings like his life depends on it, swooping from full on punk yelps up to an immaculate falsetto angel voice. He’s joined on vocals and dancing by Lea Lea, who handles her side of things perfectly. At one point both her and Nic make their way into the crowd to dance with everyone. What was that about us and them? 

The mad skinhead has made his way to the front of the crowd and is still dancing to his own tune. To my right an orange rave granny with white hair is throwing shapes so large they can probably be seen from the moon, beyond her a camp man who danced his way into the venue and hasn’t stopped all night, is attaching glow sticks to any one that will stand still for long enough.

The concert is all over within an hour. One perfect, magnificent, sweaty hour. They rattled through some of their best tracks, Heart Of Hearts, All U Writers, some new songs, The One 2, NRGQ and the gig’s high point, a blistering Pardon My Freedom. Of course there’s a whole slew of songs I’d love to have heard that they didn’t play. But when you put on show as energetic and as amazing as that you can’t complain about such things.

This wasn’t just one of the best gigs I’ve seen this year, this was one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. If they play near you, make sure you catch them. You won’t regret it.

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