May 26, 2010
Better than: Naked hot-tubbing.
About 45 minutes into the OK Go show, lead singer Damian Kulash held out his guitar over an audience member crammed up next to the Fillmore stage, handed her his pick and signaled her to strum along with the rest of the band. This particular moment, which came and went without much fanfare, passed in a heartbeat, but was a fitting example of the very nature of this LA-based group.
OK Go, known best for their massively successful viral music videos "Here It Goes Again" and "This Too Shall Pass," are the kind of band that simply has a knack for writing shamelessly catchy pop songs. The hooks are tight. The anthems are predictable and hypnotic. However, it is not the type of music that is boarding any borders of sound.
It is safe clean fun here. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it might leave one wondering, "Why is this band so damn popular? How did these guys get the golden ticket over the ten zillion other pop bands out there?"
The answer to this very reasonable question is obvious after a show like the one last night. Kulash just happens to be about the most personable, friendly, talkative, and funny front man this side of the Mississippi (considering that Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips resides in Oklahoma). Now, rock stars taking up banter with an audience is nothing new, but there are those who can use the platform to convey a level of intimacy (see: Owen Pallet, the Odelay-era Beck) and those who just come off sounding like self absorbed pricks (Jeff Tweedy, Modern Guilt-era Beck).
Kulash simply has charisma in spades. Mentioning that he was just touring in the south, he scolded the "homo-loving, pot smoking" audience last night and said that he was going to have an intervention with the entire city of San Francisco. He then leapt off the stage with an acoustic guitar and mic stand, walked about 50 feet into the crowd and played a song in the middle of the venue. Again, the song wasn't particularly mind blowing or even that interesting, but a betting man would wage that no one left that building without a fondness of that moment.
There was of course, staple smoke and mirrors pop effects (cannons shooting blue and red confetti out into the audience, sing-alongs with the audience, etc) but whenever it looked like OK Go might be treading into predictable and formulaic showmanship, Kulash was right there with a humility that was palpable.
It should be noted that this is a band that has grown leaps and bounds since their first major hit, "Get Over It." That song, which they played last night, has always sounded like it belonged on some mid-90s teen movie soundtrack like Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You or Can't Hardly Wait, but last night Kulash & Co. seemed to revel in the excitement that it still inflicts on an audience. Throughout the evening, OK Go dove into new tracks from their independently released, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, and pulled off the tracks seamlessly. Songs like "What the Fuck Is Happening" and "White Knuckles" seemed to borrow more from the Prince's "Controversy" than say, their past anthem-friendly ditties of yesteryear.
At the end of the show, Kulash told the crowd that the entire recording of that show was going to be available for the audience for the price of a USB drive, so that fans could actually take home the night. He then added, "San Francisco seems like home to us. It feels like we should be from here or something." Of course, the crowd roared with enthusiasm and praise. There is a chance that this is something that Kulash tells all of his audiences, but last night, just for a second, San Francisco believed him.