The afternoon was stifling as I sat surrounded by the commotion of tech crews lifting metal partitions and cases of Red Bull. All around there were tents filled with flat screen TVs blaring the latest in gaming technology. Off in the distance there was a looping carnival ride for the brave of heart. This year’s Sting Break 2008, designed to give the Tech student a brief hiatus from the rigors of study, included performances from Cartel and OK Go. Before taking the stage I had the opportunity to talk to OK Go’s lead guitarist/vocalist Damian Kulash and bassist/backing vocalist Tim Nordwind about playing at Georgia Tech.
OK Go was originally formed in Chicago, which Damian Kulash described as “[having] an instrumental indie rock scene that the band was drawn to.” In pursuit of a unique sound, Damian Kulash and Tim Nordwind stumbled upon the original disciple of indie rock: The Pixies.
Damian details that “the Pixies had a profound influence on OK Go’s sound”—so much so that in 2006 OK Go collaborated with the likes of The Rosebuds and They Might Be Giants to cut Dig for Fire: A Tribute to Pixies. On the album, OK Go covers the Pixie original “Gigantic.”
“Most of the conventional songs by the Pixies were already covered; however, we decided to cover ‘Gigantic,’ which seemed at the time a daunting task but also appropriate,” Damian said. OK Go produces a fantastic version of the Pixies’ haunting, eclectic sound in “Gigantic,” with a twist of their own sweet and sour indie angst.
However, OK Go had bigger plans than just covering songs of others. During the same time period, a burst of creativity resulted in the smash hit “Here it Goes Again,” off of the Oh No album in 2006. Its video, released later on July 31, 2006, was a stratospheric viral success for OK Go, having been viewed over 27 million times on YouTube in the first days.
Damian, with a grain of salt, said, “The success has been a great eye opener. The good side is that it gives you faith that all of this [music] is not fully being controlled by middlemen and the gatekeepers of the music business.”
Furthermore, Tim Nordwind points to the unorthodox success of a growing trend of independent marketing, specifically how Radiohead’s “noble idea” of releasing their album on their website for donation downloading shows the growing trend of placing the control of music back into the hands of listening fans.
The result of “Here It Goes Again” was a Best Short Form Music Video Grammy in 2007. Both Kulash and Nordwind describe winning as “all happening way too fast. It felt like we just sat down when we were quickly announced and shuffled onstage. It was an amazing experience, like being shot out of a joy gun.”
When talking to both Damian and Tim about performing this year at Sting Break ’08, they both seemed excited. Both claim that there’s “a little nerd” in OK Go’s music, with its unorthodox Victorian period fashion sense and new wave style of indie rock.
Cartel, whose local origins are Conyers, Ga., opened up for OK Go to a swelling crowd of eventually four thousand people. As Tyler Robertson, a member of the Student Center Program Council’s Concert Committee and freshman BME student put it, “The concert was a great success from the less than satisfying performance of T.I. last year. Cartel, a big name locally, pulled in a great crowd themselves and both bands gave highly energetic performances that transferred into the crowd.”
Both bands performed well over their contracted times, which was greeted warmly by the audience. Known for their frequent use of visual effects, OK Go incorporated confetti and smoke combined with dancing streamers to their last song.
The highlight of the evening was their acoustic performance of “A Million Ways,” in which everyone but the drummer dismounted the stage and wandered through the crowd to a stage setup in the heart of the screaming masses. They then proceeded to entice the audience to sing the chorus of “A Million Ways,” with lights and a chorus accompaniment.