PARDON MY FREEDOM !!! (chk chk chk)
by terri sapp
Photographs by Leah Yetter
© Concert Sutra, All Rights Reserved
I can still remember the first time I heard the band called !!! (chk chk chk). Particularly I remember the song, “Pardon My Freedom” from the album Louden Up Now, which caught my every sense’s attention. It has been love and admiration from then on. I always find it fascinating when bands and artists name themselves with symbols, or in this case punctuation. Immediately it becomes clear to me that these are the shows I will want to experience. If you are wondering how to pronounce the name of this particular band, I am to understand that you should just make three short staccato sounds of your choice, most commonly (chk chk chk), also acceptable is (pow pow pow), (uh uh uh), or (bam bam bam). No matter what you call them, or what combination of guys/gals they have collaborating, !!! (chk chk chk) makes up one of my absolute new favorite live shows to see, and one of the most inventive acts around. Current !!! (chk chk chk) members include Nic Offer (vocals), Paul Quattrone (drums), Shannon Funchess (vocals), Allan Wilson (horns, percussion, keys), Mario Andreoni (guitar), Tyler Pope (bass, electronics), and Dan Gorman (horns, percussion, keys).
First, let me say that I intended to have this awesome coverage to the public WAY before now, but alas, !!! (chk chk chk) was Concert Sutra’s last outing before I was forced to submit to the neurosurgeon’s knife for a major back surgery. That said…on October 6, 2007 at the 40 Watt in Athens, Georgia, a select group of excitement lovers (including the Concert Sutra girls, and six of our friends) gathered for a rare intimate look into the brilliance that is !!!. Even though I was in terrible pain, and struggling with ruptured discs and pinched nerves, I was forced by the shear genius on display to stand at the very front of the stage with Leah and her wonderful Canon in order to catch every second of the show that night. I was terribly sore afterwards, but never regretted one bit of time spent on my feet that night. The lineup of !!! (chk chk chk) who performed for us at the 40 Watt on that wonderful night in October, 2007 was comprised of Nic Offer (vocals), Jerry Fuchs (Marietta, GA native on the drums…Cobb County in the house!), Shannon Funchess (vocals), Allan Wilson (horns, percussion, keys), Mario Andreoni (guitar), Tyler Pope (guitar, electronics), Justin Van Der Volgen (bass) and Dan Gorman (horns, percussion, keys).
“Yadnus” from Myth Takes headed off the show with a boom! Immediately, it was evident that there was a woman singing with the Nic Offer, where I have normally seen John Pugh. She was spicy, spunky, and sang with much vigor. Shannon Funchess presence onstage from her first notes expressed an energy that kept right along with the other seven musicians on the stage with her! I always loved the chemistry between Nic Offer and John Pugh, so when I got something other than what I may have expected, I was immediately aware of how this new face would be the person to sing those parts where on the album and in videos I have seen John Pugh. (As it turns out, I found that John Pugh actually left the band a few months before this show to focus on his new band Free Blood.) Keeping with the high energy opening of the show at the 40 Watt, !!! followed “Yadnus” with the title track from Myth Takes, then right into one of my favorites from Myth Takes, “All My Heroes Are Weirdos.” These guys worked hard for the money, even in the first ten minutes of the show. The syncopated rhythms in this number never fail to get me moving, even when listening from the driver’s seat of my car! Even though “the truth is its own supplier,” I honestly don’t know what I was doing with my life before standing in front of Nic Offer during a dance fit. I was truly hooked for life the first time he shook his hips, and flapped his arms in true Offer style.
Next on the !!! (chk chk chk) agenda was to pull out my favorite of their cover songs, “Get Up!” Their cover version of this Nate Dogg classic is an excellent representation of an already top notch tune. Nic and Shannon more than made the distinct vocals of “Get Up” their own, along with the band, which really tore it up and took it to a new dimension! Cobb county native drummer Jerry Fuchs could not have asked for a better opportunity to display his chops on the kit. The climax of “Get Up” raged on higher and higher. As Shannon said, “We’re just getting started, just getting warmed up for ya!” This could not have been a truer statement when the drums and guitars danced gracefully into “Dear Can” from Louden Up Now. When you hear that !!! (chk chk chk) is known for mixing it up live, and evolving their songs via live shows…believe it. My first real feel for this finely honed skill was during “Dear Can.” Shannon’s vocals really brought a unique quality to the song that I really enjoyed. Girl can blow! Of course, I am always a sucker for a horn section, and I felt the energy boost even more when Allan Wilson and Dan Gorman broke it down. And, did I mention that ANY kind of interaction with Nic Offer, especially all up in your face with the crowd participation was enough to have this crowd drooling. What a way to seamlessly segue into “Must Be The Moon,” a Myth Takes crowd pleaser. I love the harmony between Nic Offer and Shannon Funchess’ voices! I can’t say enough how quickly I was enthralled and hanging on her every move! The keys really shined in the light of “The Moon.”
“We got three more, and these are mother fuckers!” said Nic Offer as he readied to give us the grand finale! He said that Athens was “funny” and that he liked us! “Bend Over Beethoven” was the first of the end. The sheer power of the !!! (chk chk chk) sound hypnotized me into a state of not wanting this magic to end. With 8 musicians working hard to entertain, it is no wonder that I stood in amazement, just trying to get a clear photo despite the constant motion. I also would be remised if I did not dote at least a little on Nic Offer’s luscious dance moves. While the guys in the band tore down “Beethoven” in an extended jam session, Offer shook what his mama gave him like nobody’s business. I thought he would take off into the air a few times. With no break in the guitar/bass line, we are guided directly into the obvious crowd favorite of the night, “Heart of Hearts.” I found myself swept away by the flawless mix of instruments, all serving up the most gourmet of dish! The final number was an energetic and horn heavy “Intensify” from the band’s 2001 self titled album. For a fairly young band, these guys weigh in with the giants in my book. They all switch off instruments, and play each other’s parts very well. !!! (chk chk chk) is a highly versatile group of musicians with a knack for hyping any crowd with what seem like effortless talents. I left this show with a new addition to my short list of favorite bands to see live. I will not miss them if they are ever in my area again, that is for SURE!
Click on this address (http://www.concertsutra.com/chkchkchk100607/) for the fun filled photo gallery from the fabulous Leah Yetter! For more information on the latest !!! (chk chk chk) musical endeavors, and to try and catch them in the states, visit their website at http://www.chkchkchk.net/, or on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/chkchkchk. They will be in Finland, Dublin, Amsterdam, Italy, Greece, and many other breathtakingly gorgeous non-US places coming soon, but I am not going to give up hope that they will come around to Georgia again one day before long. A girl can dream!