“Any more questions?”
Eager hands shot up across the GA floor at The Fillmore as OK Go frontman Damian Kulash surveyed the crowd. It wasn’t the first time he’d queried the audience. More than halfway through the band’s sold-out Thursday night show, he had already responded to questions with answers ranging from “roofies” to “his dog’s dog,” who, evidently, is a bit of a handful.
“What is your annual confetti budget?” yelled a man from somewhere stage right.
The crowd cracked up — by this point, we were all standing in near ankle-deep piles of the stuff. Sadly, they didn’t know a price tag — though Kulash joked that they designed each tour by calculating how much money every show would make, and then spending exactly that much on confetti. And he did know a weight: 70-80 pounds per night. If you haven’t estimated the weight of one piece of confetti, that’s a lot.
At its core, blasting confetti into a crowd is an expression of exuberant joy. There’s something magical about swimming in a sea of floating, swirling papers — usually as the kick drum of the final chorus pummels your body and the floor bows under the crowd’s jumping.
OK Go blasted confetti in its opening song — and in nearly every song that followed.
For a band known for its simultaneously outrageous and impressive music videos, abstracting the songs away from their visual representations takes a bit of adjustment. It’s a little odd to see musicians on stage with instruments when you’re used to seeing them floating in zero-gravity or jumping around the treadmills that launched the band to viral success back in the good ole’ days of YouTube circa 2006.
But, right in line with the videos and all that confetti, the simple fact of the matter is that OK Go has a discography stuffed with tracks you might not have memorized but are just plain fun.
Kulash, meanwhile, has retained his boyish charm over the years, appearing on stage somewhat paradoxically as both a well-seasoned rock star, at home in skinny jeans and a tight black shirt, and your friend’s super chill dad who tells slightly inappropriate jokes. He had an easy rapport with the crowd, throwing out impressive one-liners in response to joking heckles — making a pretty strong case for himself as a comedian.
The band’s willingness to interact directly with its audience beyond canned phrasings — and to open itself up to questioning — brought a welcome sense of something that often falls out, even at concerts that try to engender it: a sense of shared experience. The fact that all bands on tour play city after city, night after night leads to a sense that that your experience can’t be unique. And that’s fine, but with little motions — bringing a fan onstage to play guitar for a song, for example — OK Go convinced us they cared about being there.
That was especially true for Kulash, who at one point worked his way into and through the crowd, holding his acoustic guitar above his head until he reached the center to play a song solo. What sold the moment was his pause, between the first and second verse, to rotate 180 degrees with his mic and face the other side of the crowd. It was, again, a little motion, but one that made it feel like he was truly playing for every person around him.
Later, he powered through a punishing but awesome encore rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” despite the energetics of the set clearly having taken a toll on his vocal chords. And as the band launched into “Here It Goes Again” during encore’s finale, he could’ve easily let the crowd do the heavy lifting on the vocals. Instead, he gave it his all.
Although the set was mostly defined by a sense of lighthearted, dance-worthy fun, it also had strikingly emotional moments. Kulash told the story of a fan who had been following the band for a decade and who had made him a belt he keeps with him (a stagehand brought it out from his dressing room). She had recently died, and he dedicated the band’s performance of “The One Moment” to her. But more than a touching moment, it truly fit.
“The One Moment,” under its upbeat chord structure and nominal optimism, is a startlingly sad track. Its opening lyrics — “There is nothing more lovely / There’s nothing more profound / Than the certainty, than the certainty, that all of this will end” — were made all the more impactful by his dedication.
It’s odd, because, on paper at least, OK Go isn’t much more than a moderately popular alt-rock band with an enjoyable live show. Yet seemingly without any explicit (or, nowadays, usually corporate-driven) attempt to sell their show as a unique, shared experience worth holding onto, that’s exactly what it became.