Its been 4 years since LA artists OK Go have played in San Diego. Their third album, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky released in 2010 and since then Damian Kulash, Andy Ross, Tom Nordwind, and Dan Konopka have kept busy releasing B-sides, covers, mobile app games, and making various television appearances. In that time, they also have managed to write and record a new album, Hungry Ghosts, which is set to release in October of this year.
Reaching fame from their viral hit “Here It Goes Again,” in which they won a Grammy for Best Music Video in 2007, the band has grown to be known for their creative and often low budget music videos, many of which are filmed in single takes. Like an M.C. Escher picture in motion, the latest video for the new single “Writings on the Wall,” is a single take video utilizing optical illusions to trick the viewer. From a giant Rube Goldberg machine to stop motion on toast, their videos, much like their live shows, are a synesthetic blend of visual multimedia and music, often pushing the limits of what’s possible and reminding viewers of the various outlets of artistic expression.
Their west coast tour ended in Solana Beach Thursday night at the Belly Up Tavern. The venue, much smaller to their normal show, packed in a sold out crowd of eager fans both old and new. A large cheesecloth curtain sprawled out between the stage and the audience. The lights dimmed and projected upon the curtain were video clips of television and movies that introduce the band by saying "OK" and "Go." The band came out, and many seemed to think that the curtain would fall. But it didn’t. Instead, in true OK Go style, the curtain was there to serve as more than a canvas for an introduction. The set opened with “Upside Down and Inside Out,” off of their Hungry Ghosts album. This time, the projections included obscured video of the band members faces, singing along and mixing together to create unrecognizable personas. It wasn’t until the third song, “The Writing’s on the Wall,” the band’s newest single that the curtain finally fell, breaking down any disconnect the curtain may have created.
The first half of the show seemed to mostly focus on OK Go’s newest songs, which were released in their EP Upside Out, a preview for Hungry Ghosts. Though released only recently, many in the audience sang along. It wasn’t until “This Too Shall Pass,” one of their more commercially well-known tracks, where the audience really woke up. Kulash, now without a guitar, jumped into the crowd to sing the last part of it, prompting a sing along from the audience and receiving an addition of some of the night’s confetti being thrown from the fans. Returning back to the stage, everyone shed their instruments for the performance of “There’s a Fire.” Much like their older hand bells renditions of various songs, this would involve the entire band stripping down a song to its key elements in an incredibly clever way. Kulash prompts the crowd to make specific noises to imitate parts of the drum, records, and with the rest of the band, loops the sounds together to create this version of an old fan favorite.
Afterwards, the band left the stage while Kulash returned to the crowd, this time for a solo performance of “Last Leaf.” Another mesh of songs from all of their albums, including “Get Over It,” “Do What You Want,” and personal favorite, “Skyscrapers,” the band powers through until “Turn Up the Radio,” another new song. Throughout, the band keeps up high energy, backed by bright neon lights (on a set designed by Peter Glantz), more projections and a continuous stream of confetti. The encore had the boys playing their last new song of the night, “The One Moment,” and finishing up with their mega hit, “Here It Goes Again.” Though the band had finished up, the night wasn’t over for the audience. As the house lights came up, the amount of confetti that poured upon everyone throughout the night became apparent, turning grown adults into 10 year-old kids again. Confetti fights began, confetti angels were made, and much of it lost in pockets of bags, shoes, hoods, and hair.
OK Go still continue to be my personal favorite live band, often raising my expectations of other artists. Their combination of aesthetic focus mixed with incredibly catchy songs and stage presence make the band everything that I love in a show. They can make a fan out of anyone that attends, so check out their tour (as it returns from Japan) which will take them around the country in support of their newest album, Hungry Ghosts, which drops October 14th.