Words By Morgan Baskin, Photos By Armando Gallardo
OK Go’s lecture-slash-acoustic performance at the Hirshhorn was a legitimately good time, made better by the fact that the band wasn’t there to promote anything specific. (Knowing that people are talking at you just to push a product down your throat ruins the experience, IMO.) Instead, the L.A.-based quartet was there to discuss the effort behind their gravity-defying music videos, which garnered them a Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award.
The night started with a three-song acoustic set that included, thanks to technical difficulties, a 2-minute performance of a scene from Les Misérables. This is, according to lead vocalist and guitarist Damian Kulash, what the band does every time their equipment malfunctions on tour. It was a crowd-pleaser. They got the audience to sing a rousing bit from “This Too Shall Pass” and relegated drummer Dan Konopka to the corner of the stage to film the crowd.
The most telling bit of the evening was the band’s Q&A with Smithsonian Magazine writer Jeff MacGregor, who probed Kulash extensively about the band’s emphasis on filming irreverent, stunt-filled music videos. Kulash, who worked in graphic design before committing to OK Go full-time, said he found many of the people who worked in collegiate art departments “pretentious.”
“These are people who want to be touched in the soul [by art] but don’t want to do it in front of other people,” he said. OK Go, he added, was not above being uncool by openly embracing joy. Embracing joy is important for the band, and it’s why they use upwards of 80 pounds of (biodegradable) confetti per show.