If You Are Interested in Where Pop Music is Headed,
Look No Further than Ok Go
Words by Michael “Grits” Smith. Photos by Anna “Hash Browns” Vernon.
I remember hearing Ok Go for the first time and being pissed off. How dare a rock band in the 21st century write something catchy? What the fuck were they thinking? Rock bands were supposed to be dark, brooding characters with greasy hair and/or leather. Not beautiful, suited frontmen who look like Cillian Murphy with an obvious taste for cultural irony and snark.
Then, I left puberty, grew a beard and realized that a band of four jaded assholes who write intelligent catchy pop is actually pretty bad ass, and way more admirable than a group of douches who over-pronounce their “R’s.” Ok Go grew on me and actually turned into one of my favorite bands. I’ve spun the hell out of their first two records and an EP they recorded with trombone band Bonerama, but regrettably have not picked up their third and most recent record. Read on after the jump.
The evening began with an overly vocal sound checker who checked each individual instrument and with me begging to god that the subs would push more air in hopes of it mimicking AC. Granada might be trying to save on their AC bill in the steamy Texas summer months, and I was losing fluid faster than my beers were replacing it. This was infuriating me, because I knew I was never going to take home one of the hundreds of gorgeous girls literally turning Granada into a sardine tin while dripping that much sweat. (Author Note – Crowd volume aside, you can assess with alarming precision how high an artist has ascended the pop-cultural ladder using a formula that calculates the ratio of pretty girls to guys wearing Jncos in the audience. Ok Go ranks much higher than Dinosaur Jr., but is certainly eclipsed by John Mayer.)
Ok Go has released three powerfully poppy LPs, but found a cultural niche with their viral videos. This unique brand of marketing helped pave the way for their musical success, but obviously made them a few enemies along the way. The cock-rock douches in Hinder were even quoted in Rolling Stone talking shit about Ok Go. (Author aside: Fuck Hinder) Midway through the show at Granada, Damian Kulash let the audience know that tonight’s show would be available for purchase on a jump drive along with their new record following the performance – an awesome incentive to buy instead of steal the new record. This was also after telling everyone that his two dogs were the presidents of Ok Go’s record label, which is why Ok Go was able to get their way so often.
This non-corporate approach to backing a band has obviously proved successful for the guys, and is one of the more creative approaches to making money in music I’ve seen. It wouldn’t surprise me to see major labels start copying many of Ok Go’s marketing tricks. Ok Go also commissioned State Farm to pay for their latestviral video for This Too Shall Pass, which is also a brilliant marketing move, allowing Ok Go to retain all creative control, but giving the corporate goons at State Farm the exposure of however many million hits said video has. (Fuck you major labels!)
The set began with Invincible, the first track off their sophomore EP, Oh No. Confetti burst into the air as the band began, and four suit-clad gentlemen emerged with the obvious intent to entertain. The rest of the evening would be a healthy mix of songs from all three records, ranging from a wonderful handbell version of What to Do? to the neo-soul jam Million Ways to be Cruel, to the latest single This Too Shall Pass.
What struck me the most about Ok Go wasn’t necessarily their stellar musicianship, although they were extremely tight all night. It was the ease with which they played that allowed them to entertain. Any night of the week, you can go see a band of technically sound, even impressive, musicians. But to see true entertainers is rare, and it is a gift that Ok Go has honed. Damian Kulash had the entire crowd eating out of the palm of his hand, and while I’m sure that was due in no small part to his dashing good looks, the fact that he and his band killed it all night didn’t hurt either.
The evening closed with perhaps the band’s biggest single Do What You Want and another confetti explosion. This was one of the best shows I’ve seen all year, and should they return, I will be attending again. Even if you aren’t a fan of radio-friendly pop, I would recommend going to the show. You will be in for an entertaining evening.