!!! performing at MASHEasy Smith with permission for Varsity

Jack London once said “you can’t wait for inspiration; you have to go after it with a club.” Nic Offer, !!!’s frontman, agrees – but, he tells me, he’s always put it “you can’t wait for inspiration; you have to go out to the club.”

Offer and I are sitting down in Market Square an hour before his band !!! plays at MASH – a club and, apparently, a fully-fledged music venue. !!! formed in New York in 1996 and have spent the years swapping through band members and iterating on a winning formula of aggressive, disco-inflected funk.

“I last saw you guys playing Coachella in 2004!”, one woman says to Offer after the show. The band’s latest tour of small clubs around the UK, finishing with MASH, is quieter than their peak, but Offer says he’s as excited for it as any other gig. “If there’s 20 people at a show,” he says to me, “you play like there’s 2000 people, because those 20 people care, so you give them something that matters.”

This night at MASH is the last show of !!!’s UK tour supporting their latest record, Let It Be Blue, which was stitched together from various ideas and recordings over lockdown. The new album, however, is a set of cohesive, catchy, even poppy dance tracks. One highlight is This Is Pop 2, which gained a new frenetic energy as the gig’s opener.

At first glance, the unintuitive geometry of MASH’s music stage is an alarming impediment – a thick pillar stands between the band and crowd, bisecting your view from wherever you watch. Offer makes the most of it: by the end of the first song, he is dancing seductively with his back to the pillar, like it’s a fixture of every show he plays. The crowd surrounding him is delighted, and he spends as much time on stage as he does mingling with his fans, singing and dancing with them.

Frontman Nic Offer dancing among the crowdEasy Smith with permission for Varsity

Meanwhile, drummer Chris Egan runs through dance beats with exquisite tightness, sometimes supported by Rafael Cohen, a multi-instrumentalist, on drum pad, while Mario Andreoni alternates between bass and guitar. Meah Pace comes on and off stage when songs require female-led backup vocals. This is a flexible arrangement. I love the hypnotic A Little Bit (More) with Cohen on lead vocals, but the band doesn’t quite match Offer’s own energy, and some of the later songs like What I Need To Know start to blend together into one long disco.

!!! has a vast discography (Offer looks disturbed when I tell him most Cambridge undergraduates are younger than his band), but tonight they mainly play tracks from their latest albums. Offer acknowledges this choice: “People come up to us after shows and say, why didn’t you play this song or that song? But at the same time, they say it was the best show they saw all year. And that’s why, you know? It’s because you saw a band having a good time and expressing themselves instead of just going through the motions.”


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This iteration of !!! would easily sound great in a venue that quadruples the capacity of MASH, but they’re let down by the audio setup here. Cohen and Pace’s backup vocals sound a bit thin and quiet against the rhythm section. On the opposite end, the bass is mixed so heavily that it literally gives my sister a nosebleed. Still, it’s not a bad venue, especially when the band is as up for it as !!! are. Most of the audience came specifically to see them; maybe more people should know that MASH does, like, actual gigs!

It was so refreshing to see this veteran band make the most of the crowd, the venue and the night. “We regret to inform you that this is our last song”, Offer announces before the encore, “but we are proud to inform you that we are !!!” They really are too.