3OH!3 at Varsity Theater, 10/31/13

Photo by Mark N. Kartarik

Varsity Theater, Minneapolis
Thursday, October 31, 2013

Keeping with the Halloween spirit, 3OH!3 weren't their normal selves at the Varsity last night. The electro-pop duo from Boulder and their backing band were all dressed as characters from the 2004 weirdo-comedy Napoleon Dynamite. Nathaniel Motte was the spitting image of Napoleon himself, opening the set with a reprise of his "canned heat" number and urging the audience to Vote for Pedro, and Sean Foreman made a great slimy Uncle Rico. The costume choice was fitting: 3OH!3, like the movie they chose, is best when it treats itself with the least amount of seriousness possible.

See Also: Slideshow: 3OH!3 at Varsity Theater, 10/31/13

From the opening of the party-or-die "PunkB*tch," the aesthetic of the show could be described as ADHD-chic. The light show on most songs seemed to be an attempt to flash as many multi-colored floodlights as they could flash at the audience as quickly as possible. Musically, 3OH!3 were more contained. The backing band gave all of their songs more of a rock edge, but generally they stuck fairly close to the record, even including most of their backing tracks. They were at their best with their more hardcore and manic early material, with their radio hits and poppier songs falling a bit flat at times.

The one common thread that ties all 3OH!3 songs together, no matter the style, is their irreverent and jokey lyric content. Listening to them brings to mind a certain type of class clown. Not the traditionally "nerdy" type, who used humor to gain status or escape marginalization, but the type who could say whatever crazy shit they thought up without fear of seeming weird because they'd won the social game so handily. Notable example: "In my car that girl was biting on my lips like Jeffrey Dahmer" from "You're Gonna Love This."

The crowd was game throughout, about evenly split between fans who knew most of what they performed and people who only knew the hits. They dutifully jumped around, got down and threw up the 3OH!3 sign (including one dude with Wolverine gloves), but their hypeness was fairly contained considering the circumstances.

"My First Kiss," a 2010 single that featured Ke$ha, was simultaneously one of their worst and most enjoyable performances. The vocals outside of the song-dominating hook were put forward with almost negative effort -- Nathaniel Motte even stayed in character and delivered his lines in Napoleon Dynamite's distinctive monotone. It was ridiculous, but in my mind a tongue-in-cheek and phoned-in performance of a Radio Song this transparent is better than a sincere one.

Photo by Mark Kartarik

They continued with the flippantly fun attitude towards their hits later in the show with "Touchin on My." The song has this enigmatic chorus: "Touchin on my/While I'm touchin on your/You know that we are gonna/Cause I don't give a." Its mysteries remain hidden from us, even through a thousand suburban basement parties. Sean Foreman, aka Uncle Rico, showed off his best dance moves during this one, including an absolutely absurd shush pose straight out of Austin Powers.

Despite the casualness with which they treated some of their material, there were moments throughout the set where they really brought it. "Electroshock," from their first EP, was one example. Foreman really poured his energy into self aware hedonistic lyrics, bringing it back to the high-powered sardonic cleverness of the mid-aughts hardcore-influenced scene, bringing to mind the feeling (if not the sound) of Motion City Soundtrack or Fall Out Boy.


At the midpoint of the set they took a break to appraise, and mock, the many costumes in the audience. They worked some of this banter into a brief freestyle during "Two Girlfriends," a song from their most recent album that features rapping over a rock beat--think Rage Against the Machine if they turned to electro and parties rather than metal and politics. "I used to have two girlfriends, now I got none / Put a Twister board on me and made them all run."

"Prince" and "Macklemore"
"Prince" and "Macklemore"
Photo by Mark Kartarik
3OH!3 at Varsity Theater, 10/31/13
Photo by Mark Kartarik

Another newer song, "Eyes Closed" saw the band take a foray into brostep. This mid-range, aggressive dubstep style made famous by Skrillex, characterized by "epic drops" and erratic fluctuations, can be used in two ways: not at all (ideally) or with all-out, robotic apocalypse abandon. Unfortunately, 3OH!3 chose the middle path, and half-assed brostep just doesn't work, as it leaves in everything that makes the style grating and takes out everything that makes it fun to bug out to. They should stick to the hardcore and pop electro that got them where they are today.

The boys soon redeemed themselves during a break in the set. Napoleon asked the crowd "How many of you motherfuckers have extra tots you could give me?" and the band played a series of 20 second thrash metal riffs in increasingly slow tempo, taking the vibe back to irreverence it started with.

They closed the set with "Love 2012," probably their strongest musical performance of the night. The strong synth groove blended well with an almost thrashing performance from their band, and the song seemed simultaneously more live and better put together than much of what had come before.

Photo by Mark Kartarik

3OH!3 gave the people what they wanted, as they had all night, with the inevitable "Don't Trust Me" encore, an anthem of most of this crowds' high school parties. The set, like the band, was fast (at around an hour), fun and unabashedly vapid.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal bias: I went to this show more out of a sense of personal curiosity than appreciation for the group themselves.

The crowd: Outside of the obvious (they were mostly wearing Halloween costumes), the crowd at this all-ages show skewed young, but not so young that there were a lot of Xs on the back of people's hands--though it's possible that they washed them in the theater's famous bathroom to drink like the bands. Many attendees looked like they'd been to a Warped Tour or two in their day.

Overseen in the crowd: An unexpected amount of Pikachus, both sexy and traditional.

PunkB*tch / I'm Not Your Boyfriend Baby
You're Gonna Love This
My First Kiss
Back to Life
Touchin on My
Two Girlfriends
Eyes Closed
Don't Dance
Streets of Gold
Love 2012
Turn the Night On [Collaboration with openers The Summer Set, Wallpaper and NeW bEAt FUNd]
Don't Trust Me

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >