A Wild Night with OK Go

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Check out my interview with Damian Here!

Sometimes it’s easy to forget about Rock N’ Roll, or what it really means to be Rock N’ Roll. Most people into the genre have probably been influenced by their relatives or idols in some sort of capacity, hearing the stories about seeing Van Morrison so drunk he couldn’t even sing a sensible sentence (which is hard to understand even when he’s sober), or Jimi Hendrix super high on acid playing his guitar with his teeth while he was the still the opening act! By and large, it might be fair to assume most people’s standards have gone up. People don’t care for the circus shows or dysfunctional bands, at least not live. They’d probably rather just hear about it from their uncle, but what happens when they become the uncle? At the time it might seem like a let down, or a waste of money, but those Rock N’ Roll stories need to live on in order for it to survive. And, like the American Express commercial stated- Tickets to a G n’ R concert in the 90’s: $50-$100 bucks, the moment when Axle Rose dives into the crowd to whoop someone’s ass: priceless.

Given this pretense, a band came through San Francisco last night who’s rock roots might have been buried underneath a thick soil that is starting to decease the underbelly of momentous antics in music. The band is OK Go, natives from Chicago who moved to Los Angeles to further their film career. They’re wildly popular for their creative videos and commercials that feature everything from treadmill dancing, dog championing, sophisticated synchronized dancing, musical demolition derbies, giant life sized Rube Goldberg Machines, and lots of paint splattered across their faces. In short, everyone who knows this band has at least two favorite videos they’ve produced. And this, however, is odd. So when OK Go plays live, they might have a bit of a chip on their shoulder.

At a sold out Independent theater, a modest venue in comparison to some they have played in the past, people awaited anxiously while a DJ pranced on stage drinking Jameson from the bottle and playing Nirvana. He even gave swigs to the crowd, which meant he was undoubtedly giving swigs to other band members. He walked off the stage in sunglasses and it was most certainly a glimpse into what was about to happen. OK Go exploded through the stage as giant robots, all running on hamster wheels while playing their instruments on fire and eating burritos while hoola hooping!

No, that didn’t happen, but people probably expected it. The problem with being so ambitious is that people won’t just accept you for who you are. People want you to literally explode their brains. So how does one deal with this type of pressure? You get drunk. Hey, what did the lead singer Damian Kulash and I have in common? We were both probably pretty drunk. But in any case, it gave him the right to do or say whatever he damned well please, and it was actually sort of awesome.

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Most other reviews I would have divulged the hit songs they played that had the crowd roaring, but for the most part the crowd was in a sort of paralysis the entire time, stuck somewhere between awe and disappointment, not knowing whether this was a joke, a silly antic, or if they were going to be part of a video. It had the makings of one. There were two decent sized projection screens behind them, and a giant one in front of them that would appear and disappear spontaneously throughout their set. Their first song you could see their distorted and colored faces twirling about like ghosts from Ghostbusters while the band played along, somehow matching the lyrics and instrumentation. It was cool and creative and different, and that’s what OK Go was really going for; something to separate them for every other stale performance. That’s sort of been their mantra their entire career.

They did play some great songs, the one’s you’d expect- “Get Over It,” “When the Morning Comes,” “The Writing’s on the Wall,” “Here it Goes Again,” “This too Shall Pass,” “Skyscrapers,” and a few new songs. One of the best parts came when Damian took his acoustic guitar out in the middle of the crowd and played “Last Leaf.” Halfway through the song someone shouted “shut up,” and so he turned the other direction and finished the song.

Maybe the crowd was agitated by this point? If not, maybe it was the avalanches of confetti that doused the crowed after every other song? Or the fifteen minutes of trying to sample the crowd making drum sounds for a song that lasted about a minute at most. Or maybe it was their multiple breaks for pointless Q&A, or Damian’s snide back handed compliments about San Francisco having the most “gays and technology, two things that keep pushing the world forward.” It could have also been Tim and Damian’s short reenactment of Macbeth, showing their love for Theater, or Damian divulging information on how much Jameson he drank while swigging a beer. Whatever it was, the crowd should have gotten over it, because this was Rock N’ Roll.

It was four dudes on a stage just having fun. While they could have played a couple more songs, how many times do you get to shout questions at a band that are so revered by their fans? How many stories does one have about a show that was flawless? How often do you actually get to witness people step down from pedestals or have the foresight to see that these people are just regular old chaps that sometimes get too drunk and sometimes have just a little bit too much fun?The experience was unique, almost like a night of just hanging out with some crazy dudes. And for all the real fans of the band, the feeling walking out of that show was most likely the feeling they have after finishing one of their videos: confused, exhilarated, and utterly amazed.

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Dave Chappelle @ The Independent, San Francisco- April 2nd, 2013


Dave Chapelle is like a drug- there’s uncontrollable hysteria followed by a terrible comedown that leaves you yearning for more.

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On a Tuesday night the line proceeded around the corner while a group of ladies in high heels and laced shirts complained about the sudden transition of the weather. It was cold and misty after a predominantly sunny day, but it was quite fitting for the event. How else could you really test the loyalty of fans that Dave Chapelle has acquired throughout his rocky tenure as a comedian? His fans would truly wait in a fucking violent snowstorm just to see him-as if fighting off the swarms of people trying to buy a ticket to his spontaneously announced shows isn’t stressful enough.

After being lectured several times by the moderately friendly staff of this venue about shutting off your phones, a restriction ordered by Dave himself, the excitement swelled. When the line started moving inch by inch, an anxiety filled my body. I never feel this way going to shows, even seeing some of my favorite bands, but seeing Dave live in person gave me a chill down my spine. He is larger than life. When he turned down the fifty million dollars from Comedy Central, he immediately became elite. He has pounced past celebrity status

into a genre of his own, and he now has the power to do whatever he wants, when he wants. I’m just glad he wants to do these shows in the Bay Area.

I entered the small venue where limited seating was set up exclusive for the event. I found a single seat in the second row and observed my surroundings. Every person had a smile on their face, symbolizing the anticipation of reality- a reality that we were all finally living out our fantasies of climbing into the television of every great episode of the Chapelle Show we ever watched, or witnessing the stand up comedy we’ve only seen on DVD’s, or finally gathering stories of our own after being told stories from friends who had seen him live. Cackling in the seat behind me was a younger gentleman who claimed to have seen Dave two other times. “One time he went on until three in the morning,” the chap obliged. “I fell asleep, my friends actually woke me up when it was over.” Unfortunately, I was at the early show. Next time (there will be a next time, since there was a first time) I’ll catch the late one.

The first comic was funny. I can’t remember his name, but he made everyone laugh. He was like a funnier Tracy Morgan. He was raunchy and talked a lot about being black and having sex, but at least his jokes were relevant and humorous. He joked a lot about

gender roles, and how for a man proposing on a knee for marriage is humiliating, and that we are immediately destined to fail. “We start out on our knees!” He exclaimed and then asked, “how many women would get married if you had to propose and get on your knees?” The place fell silent. The guy was funny, he could have been fucking Louis C.K. or Kevin Hart, but we still wouldn’t have been able to fully appreciate the act due to the fact that everyone was really there for one person: Mr. Dave Chappelle.

Finally, ten minutes after the previous comedian Chappelle took the stage. I was star struck. My first impressions were that he looked surprisingly buff, and old. I felt bad for thinking he looked old and then he plunged into his first joke, as if he was reading my thoughts. “Man, I’m getting old” he said. My eyes literally almost popped out of my head. I looked around in paranoia, thinking he was possibly part of the illuminati (a joke he made later in the night). The crowd disagreed with his pledge. “No, really. I was jerking off the other day and I gave up right in the middle of it. I just gave up.” The crowd roared with laughter and the comedy was underway. One thing I admire about Dave’s stand up is that it’s like a conversation, only you don’t speak. You feel like you’re just hanging out with him- like a friend you look up to; a sincerely intelligent human being that knows how to construe r

elevant events into humor. He talked about how he was going to Los Angeles to perform at the Grammy’s to make his “come back,” and how simultaneously there was an ex-police officer on the run after killing three cops. Apparently, in his manifesto, he mentions that he loved Dave Chappelle, even going so far as calling him a genius. Now, Dave told this joke to much higher hilarity than I’m reiterating, but it boiled down to this: LAPD called Dave, told him there was nothing to worry about and that they would meet Dave at the airport. Dave was freaked out and said he didn’t want “the heat” generated towards him, so he told the officer to grab a pen and get ready to write down these words: I’M NOT COMING! Dave didn’t come, and never made his “come back” at the Grammy’s.

Chappelle gives his audience a glimpse into his life. He adopts them as his family and makes it comfortable and pleasurable for all.

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Dave didn’t heckle the audience like I’ve seen before, where comedians prey on voyeurs. Poking fun at people can be funny, but when that’s the base of the comedic performance it becomes stale and uncreative. Dave doesn’t have time for that, he’s a natural story teller and we are his disciples, not his prey. Of course the inevitable shouting from patrons will occur. For example, one woman shouted she’d give Dave a new “Pussy Angle” on pussy jokes. He later referred back to her, making her PART of the joke, not the joke itself. He doesn’t get off on chastising anyone and that’s part of his brilliance. Most of his jokes come full circle, and throughout his skit he reverts back to several jokes that seemed to end without any resolution. Dave really is a genius, it doesn’t take a prediction by a psychopath’s manifesto who slaughtered three cops L.A. cops- but it sure is great press and makes for a great joke!

The highlight of the night was when he exercised a bit he calls, “Celebrity Prank Calling.” This is where he randomly Face Time’s a person in his contact list of his phone. The first “celebrity” he called was Chris Rock. The crowd went crazy with excitement. The thrill of seeing these two comedic legends interact in person (well, a bit digitized) was exhilarating. They joked about coming to the bay for a couple shows together and charging nine hundred bucks. During this phone call, I found out the identity of those brave fanciful girls who sacrificed their warmth for their stunning attire. “Hey Chris, look we have the Golden State Warrior Cheerleaders in the house!” He pointed the phone towards them. That was another bonus added to my already stellar night, I waited in line behind cheerleaders. Awesome.

Rock claimed to be in the dungeon of his house “watching basketball and trying not to jerk off,” and seemed a bit flabbergasted. The conversation was short but sweet. The next person he called took several attempts to reach, but when he did he surpassed the hype. “Hey everyone, say hello to Q-Tip.” Again, everyone went bonkers as whispers of “a Tribe Called Quest” scurried through the crowd like a game of telephone. “Sorry I didn’t pick up Dave, I was on the other line with Andre 3,000.” This is when it became real. We were seriously witnessing Dave fucking Chapelle talk to Q-Tip, one of the best MC’s of all time, who was on the fucking phone with Andre 3,000 of fucking Outkast. It was unreal.

This altercation was especially authentic, as these two jabbered like two lifelong friends. Q-Tip was energetic and excited, asking Dave questions as the two spatted back and forth with sarcasm and wit. I won’t even recall the conversation, I’ll just let you imagine what it could have been like. Now take your illustrations and double it- that’s how fucking cool it was. Towards the end, you could tell Dave was just settling in. He had just ordered a beer and smoked a joint and several cloves throughout his set. These elements made Dave seem normal. I never would have thought he smoked, especially cloves. The joint didn’t really surprise me, but he had such an elite status that he was able to indulge on stage with a casual demeanor that we could only dream about. As time expired, fear and sadness overwhelmed me. Dave joked about the price of the show, “you guys got your eleven bucks worth tonight.” I paid $55 and it was worth every penny. I didn’t want to leave, and neither did he. “You guys were the little audience that could,” he exclaimed. “I’d keep going but I got in trouble the other night for this. There’s a whole other audience.”

Someone yelled, “where are they?”

“They’re probably out in the fucking cold, let em freeze!” Dave rejoiced. “And when you go outside, don’t tell em what happened in here tonight. Just mumble things like ‘Dave is a tyranny of laughter'”

On the way out I heard a guy say to his girlfriend, “that was much better than the last time I saw him. That was incredible. I mean, he called fucking Q-Tip. FUCKING Q-TIP!” And that’s when it hit me. Dave is beyond 50 million dollars. Dave Chappelle is God.