A Wednesday night and a blizzard is basically a promoter’s nightmare, but book a couple of derelict bands in a small venue and surely the promoter’s loss will be the audience’s gain. Reinventing the word tacky with their 70’s Lacoste formal fashions of paisley patterns and heinous ties, OK Go proved they weren’t all a bad fashion statement, while giving the small showcase lounge at Higher Ground something to shout about.
Opener Controller Controller brought a mystified psychedelic aroma to the stage. Lead singer Nirmala Basnayake made like Grace Slick with her howling echo vocals that sound part demonic and part inviting. With disco beats mixed with stabbing guitar lines, Controller Controller made for a bizarre mish-mash of sounds from their first full length – X-amounts. Although the mix was rough at first, the band gained steam throughout their brief set, which soon had the young fans wide eyed and spaced out. Despite their raw edge, the five-piece can hold a dance floor or edgy night club with conviction.
OK Go fit into the mold of today’s trendy angular dance rock bands, but their sound hails with the over-the top rock of classic rock bands like Cheap Trick. On their second show back from a tour of England, they opened with a cover of the Talking Head’s “Up All Night,” and OK Go pole vaulted the audience into familiar waters. Lead singer Damian Kulash was all over the place – emulating the guitar gymnastics of Pete Townshend, the elastic faces of Mick Jagger and the staccato voiced pyrotechnics of the Hive’s Pelle Almqvist. As the paisley patterns continued to project, OK GO went with their standard fare of two album material. At one point Kulash gave a fan in the crowd $10 to order him a double Jameson with no ice, before diving into a cover of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Don’t Bring Me Down.”
Kulash is easily the centerpiece of the band, going off on tangent raps, while his band-mates looked down as if they’d heard these ramblings before. But it’s their now infamous encore, a choreographed dance version of “ A Million Ways,” that earned the biggest response of the night. If there is such thing as being swank and tacky – OK Go certainly is it.