Show Review: Ex’pression Session: OK Go and Amanda Palmer @ Ex’pression College for Digital Arts

by Jonathan Pirro on May 25, 2010

OK Go, with bells

OK Go, with bells

While a great number of artists have passed through the doors of Ex’pression College to perform at the school’s Meyer Performance Hall, in intimate shows offered to a handful of lucky radio winners and passionate students, never before has one of these performances — dubbed “Ex’pression Sessions” — included more than one band at a time. It’s also not terribly easy to predict exactly who will be coming through the doors, since all manner of musicians, performers and artists have taken the stage over the last several years. With these considerations in mind, Monday’s performance was a never-before-attempted feat, as it involved two artists of a fairly well-known stature: Amanda Palmer, expert pianist and purveyor of all things art, and OK Go, arguably the Most Famous Band Thanks To The Internet.

The show began, after a quick introduction from Sxip Shirley, who was MC’ing for the evening, with a performance from Evelyn Evelyn, the conjoined-twin-musical-duo that is the new alter ago of Amanda Palmer and ubiquitous musician Jason Webley. The twins entered the stage, and, after a bit of awkward movement and nervous glances at the assembled crowd, launched into a lively rendition of “Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn?”, one of the pieces on their eponymous debut album. The song was well received by the crowd, and after a brief interlude while Sxip showed off the album in vinyl form, Amanda Palmer came rushing onstage to enthusiastic cheers. While rather short, her performance was full of great energy; from the opening notes of “Ampersand” and the thundering attack of “Runs In The Family”, to her delicate and gorgeous cover of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” on ukelele, Amanda held the crowd in rapt attention, with ecstatic applause following each of her songs. Jason Webley returned to the stage to finish the set — an explosive version of his song, “Icarus” — and the duo bowed and departed, to the tune of wild screams from the crowd.

Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley

Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley

  1. Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn? (as Evelyn Evelyn)
  2. Ampersand
  3. Runs In The Family
  4. Fake Plastic Trees
  5. Do You Swear To Tell The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But The Truth, So Help Your Black Ass
  6. Icarus (with Jason Webley)

Not long after Amanda and Jason had headed off to the school’s Globecaster room, where they held an online Q&A for fans tuning into the webcast of the performance, three of the members of OK Go took the stage of Meyer Hall, armed with acoustic guitars, a synthesizer, and a host of percussive instruments. The band was in high spirits and with a terrific sense of humor; each of their songs was played with great enthusiasm along with the crowd singing and cheering along. Singer Damian Kulash paused between each song to speak to the crowd, answering questions and talking about life on the road; the atmosphere was incredibly friendly and the band joked and laughed throughout a good portion of their set. Performances of the group’s two biggest hits — “A Million Ways” and “Here It Goes Again” — got the crowd singing along, even as the band kept skipping over a few verses because they were laughing so much at the jokes being exchanged throughout the show.

One highlight of OK Go’s set was the song “What To Do”; during this song, the band carted over a table covered in large bells, which they each took up and rang as they shouted out the words to the song. The wild gesturing and ringing added to the great humor already present in the performance, and made for a brilliant surprise in the middle of the acoustic set. Near the end of the set, the band played a slow, grooving cover of “Wave Of Mutilation” by the Pixies, following Damian Kulash’s tale of his excitement over playing with Frank Black a few years ago and having OK Go billed as The Pixies for the duration of that set. The show finished with a performance of the group’s new single, “This Too Shall Pass”, which took all the effort of the band to rouse the crowd into belting out the chorus; not one to stand down from the challenge, the crowd rose enthusiastically, and the set was brought to a fantastic close.

While there seemed to be a lot of puzzlement and speculation regarding the pairing of Amanda Palmer and OK Go, I believe that it was a brilliant combination. The evening was filled with a mindset of performance, art, and togetherness through music; there was also an excellent camaraderie between the two acts, as both had recently been able to finish their respective record labels’ contracts and were celebrating their freedom with gusto. I hope that we continue to have performances like this one at the Ex’pression Sessions, as there is never any reason to limit the celebration of life, art, and the ways in which the two are entwined.

OK Go's setlist

OK Go's setlist

All photos by Jonathan Pirro.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

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