Photo by Erika Howard — A&E Editor

Performers have an old saying that goes “give ‘em a smile, and the audience will forgive you for anything.” On Saturday, Sept. 8, local rock band Nik and the Nice Guys proved that this is not only true, but effective even when there’s nothing to forgive.

Nik and the Nice Guys, part of the larger company Nik Entertainment, which performed at the Memorial Art Gallery to close the first day of the Clothesline Festival, combined true musical talent with sheer entertainment, adding humor and light-hearted fun to their performance and generally looked like they were enjoying themselves.

The group played all cover songs, but chose them well — there wasn’t a single song that the audience didn’t seem to know, though their covers ranged from LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” to The Weather Girls’ “It’s Rainin’ Men” to  an Elvis medley.

Nik and the Nice Guys is a large band, made up of 11 members and a stage manager who wore a shirt with “Apprentice” emblazoned on the back (who’s main job, it seemed, was to dance throughout the show).

Despite their size, every single member looked engaged and enthusiastic, which went a long way toward creating a memorable experience for the crowd. They also often incorporated props and costumes into their songs — the horn section danced with umbrellas during The Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men,” the trumpeter wore a superman costume (plus a leaf blower to put the wind in his cape) for Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For A Hero,” and the lead singer in an Elvis costume for a collection of The King’s songs including “Jailhouse Rock” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” the latter of which turned out to be surprisingly sentimental as couples of all ages got up to dance.

With this kind of SNL-esque entertainment value, it would have been easy for the music itself to fall through the cracks. However, this wasn’t at all an issue for Nik and the Nice Guys.  The musicians were clearly all well-trained, not to mention devoted to their respective instruments.

They were able to play a wide variety of genres, ranging from current Top 40 songs to a classic dance medley, which included songs like Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” and Chubby Checker’s “Do the Twist.” The guitarist in particular displayed  excellent technique while still managing to joke with both the audience and his fellow bandmates.

And joke the band did. They would generally poke fun at each other, but it was clearly done  good-naturedly. When one of the trumpet players stepped up for a vocal solo in the classic Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs song  “Wooly Bully,” he preceded the song by saying, “Normally, I go to a museum, I tuck my shirt in, but I’m feeling crazy tonight!”

Quite frankly, the music was excellent, but what really made the band a joy to watch was their comedic takes on songs.

They never took themselves too seriously and were willing to make fools of themselves for the sake of the show. Sometimes bands do this reluctantly, and it just makes the audience uncomfortable. However, when a band does it with such commitment and enthusiasm, as Nik and the Nice Guys did it makes for a great time. Their choreography included everything from kick lines to surfing imitations, and every odd move was done with such gusto it was impossible not to laugh. The ridiculous nature of their performance added  great entertainment value.

Another moment that won smiles in the audience was during Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy,” when a member dubbed “sexy Josh” changed the line to “I shake my little foot on the catwalk,” doing a dance akin to the hokey pokey, and when band members teased about the change, he declared it “avant-garde!”

The band had a charisma that seemed to appeal to audience members of all generations . Teenagers sang along to Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking” and older couples danced to Christina Aguilera, Lil Kim, Mya and P!nk’s “Lady Marmalade.” It was a night of pure enjoyment from start to finish, with not a single dull moment to interrupt the fun.

Nik and The Nice Guys managed to put forth a show that let the audience forget about their worries for awhile, and just enjoy a night of good old-fashioned music with a few laughs thrown in for good measure — a perfect way to unwind.

Howard is a member of the class of 2013.

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