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OK Go At The Troubadour: Concert Review

Alexa Girkout |
July 23, 2014 | 2:28 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

via @OKGO
via @OKGO
“The Guys on the Treadmills” will forever be its epithet. Though the now iconic, the Grammy-winning music video was recorded and released eight years ago and it’s probably what OK Go is best known for. To the band’s credit, the whimsy and flamboyancy of their outfits, demeanor and vision has all but faded over the years.

For those who skimmed over the band’s near-decade trajectory since then, OK Go has incredibly found ways to surpass its own ambition and ingenuity in the music video realm. There have been the Rube Goldberg Machine, choreographed stunt dogs, human kaleidoscopes and a version one of their tunes performed by a car driving through an obstacle course.

All the while, the now L.A.-based rock band has continued to produce a steady stream of consistent alt-pop tunes. It’s been four years since 2010’s “Of the Blue Colour of the Sky” and now OK Go returns with “Hungry Ghosts.”

The music feels the same—a not unpleasant combination of safe and nostalgic—but the band has a way of being effortlessly alluring for a reason that is not necessarily related to its craft: OK Go feels genuine in its joy and its eccentricity. 

That same energy was palpable Tuesday night at the Troubadour, where the band convened for its first of two hometown performances. OK Go has played much bigger venues than the West Hollywood staple, namely multiple festivals. It seemed as if the intimate locale would stifle the band’s creative potential (they’ve been known to perform renditions of their songs with hand bells and on a separate occasion, underwater), but trust the quartet to always have several aces hidden up its sleeves.

One thing that should now be anticipated, and in-fact expected, with every OK Go show is spectacle; by no means are the musicians ever going to play a heads-down, no-frills rock show. This is a band that relishes gimmicks (yes, they are gimmicks), but their ploys, though at times pedestrian, are certainly gleeful. 

OK Go started the night shrouded by a thin veil on which they projected distorted images of their floating heads and static black-and-white patterns, something oddly distant for a band with a reputation of being so interactive with its fans. Of course, the dividing screen was short-lived, and images of the band members shot from miniature cameras strapped to their mics appeared on two screens behind them.

With (unsurprisingly) an endless confetti machine, OK Go drenched its eager audience in tissue paper one song into their set, and then again at the chorus, and again a different point and multiple times in a handful of songs that it gets difficult to count. From this alone, one gets the feeling that every time OK Go does anything, it’s a massive accomplishment, but that would be a grave misunderstanding. Instead, it’s that the band celebrates everything it does in an entirely unanticipated humble manner. With each blast of paper, the band seems to say, yes we did it, but we did it for you so let’s enjoy it together. 

This is pretty much confirmed by the rapport that front man Damian Kulash has with any given crowd. Kulash teems with charisma, leaping off the stage to perform on acoustic guitar in the middle of the floor and taking breaks in his set to banter with fans in an impromptu Q&A in which he divulged that his axe was indeed not a Fender, but rather purchased at a junk shop in New Orleans.

“It’s a total piece of s—t, but it sounds amazing,” he laughed.

The epitome of OK Go occurred during perhaps its most gimmicky stunt of the night. Kulash solicited the audience to stomp, clap and hiss, recorded the sounds on his phone and arranged them to reproduce a vocal drum kit for a song—essentially, a fan and band collaboration. 

OK Go is, yes, nauseatingly quirky and charming but it strangely makes them all the more appealing. After a brief respite, the band once again hoisted the screen, projecting a highlight reel of their music videos before playing the song that anyone with a pulse and internet access surely remembers: “Here It Goes Again.” It’s become a tagline for the band which, thankfully, never quits.

Reach staff reporter Alexa Girkout here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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