REVIEW: OK Go at Summerfest, 7/2/2015

OK Go has become known for much more than their music. As a band, they’ve put out four albums and seven EPs within the last 15 years, but most people probably know them for their ultra-creative music videos (you know, that treadmill video?) that have become viral YouTube hits. When you’re known for having that much fun and putting out that much creativity on the regular, at least some of that has to translate to a live setting, as well. In the case of OK Go’s performance at the Uline Warehouse on Thursday night, that’s exactly what they provided and then some.

As the band played through their first song, confetti rained over the crowd, and essentially didn’t stop for the majority of the night. The crowd didn’t need a distraction, however, because everyone was busy getting into the band for their music, which is sometimes a lost concept when your band is known for cool visuals but not necessarily the albums those videos were promoting. Throughout the night OK Go never looked like they weren’t having fun. They blasted through tracks from 2002’s “OK Go” and 2005’s “Oh No”, in addition to their latest, “Hungry Ghosts”.

Some of the best moments of the show came between songs, as well. Three times, the band broke their set to take questions from the audience, testing their improv skills. Weird left field questions received great, left field answers. Frontman Damian Kulash let the world know that his favorite color was “that tan color that took over the 90’s”, and that his favorite dinosaur was Paul McCartney (before quickly apologizing and stating that he was only joking.) The Q&A session also created a chicken-or-the-egg scenario later on in the night, after explaining that their favorite band to tour with was Led Zeppelin, and later covering “Black Dog” (Scratch that, a view of the set list proves that it was planned, but the question probably was not.) They also explained that “opening for Mozart was cool, too.” Nobody will be accusing OK Go of taking themselves too seriously anytime soon.

In addition to all the fun, they also made sure to throw in all of the singles that made them YouTube sensations. There was a wonderful group singalong in the breakdown of “This Too Shall Pass”, and the crowd roared at the gritty guitar lick that opens up the pre-viral video hit “Get Over It”. Other great moments included Kulash coming out into the bleachers to play a song acoustically from the crowd, assisted by a fan who was picked to be his personal microphone stand. All of these moments combined to make OK Go’s set one of the best that I’ve seen at this year’s Summerfest, and definitely exceeded my expectations completely.

Technically, everything went mostly smooth. There were points early on when members could be seen asking for the monitors to be turned up, but that was momentary, and entirely not their fault (I remember seeing a Less Than Jake show at the Uline Warehouse that encountered the same issues.) There was also a rather Spinal Tap-esque moment when one of the two confetti machines on the sides of the stage ran out of air, causing a roadie to struggle, and then ultimately a randomly triggered blast of confetti later on. Can’t win ‘em all, but nevertheless an entertaining sight.
All things considered, the music is still at the heart of everything that OK Go does, and while the creativity abounds in other mediums as well, their live show was well put together. The night closed on “Here It Goes Again”, that song from the treadmill video that you’ve seen. While there may not have been choreographed dances or treadmills or a Rube Goldberg experiment, there didn’t need to be. OK Go is a great band, plain and simple, and even with everything else around them, that showed on Thursday night.

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