Nov 172014

So a friend gave me a copy of Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, from Ok-Go, a band I was planning to not like very much. I knew they had catchy videos and all that. So maybe it was that this music made a good accompaniment to prepping a Sunday night lasagna, but I ended up enjoying the album more than I expected. There’s a distinct Spoon/Flaming Lips/Air vibe, and the best non-Prince Prince song I’ve heard in a while.

So I got to looking at some of the videos that go with the songs on the album, and found this:

Say what you will about the band and their music, I think this is a pretty cool way to engage the audience and perform a studio track. Granted, the audience is sitting down, but they seem to be interested in the process of “creating” some music. They aren’t wielding guitars or maracas or jumping up on stage to jam, but they are also not taking stupid selfies or videoing the whole thing.

Is this where music performance is going? Would you want to be part of this audience?


  14 Responses to “Audience Participation”

  1. As an obsessive student of drum patterns, I frequently try to play along with the rhythm much like the black track on this video, right fist thump on the chest for the kick drum, left slap on the thigh for the snare. However, 9 times out of 10, if encouraged to participate, I will not.

  2. I also follow certain instrumental patterns obsessively while watching a band or listening to a record, but the audience participation thing is really hard to get into. If I feel like I’m being asked to clap out a beat to actually get a song underway I may be game, but if I feel like I’m being asked to to it just so the singer can feel he or she holds power over me, no way. I saw Sloan the other night, and their main main man, Chris Murphy, is constantly instigating clap-alongs and sing-alongs (holding the mic into the audience). In his case I’m pretty sure it’s all in good, ironic fun, but the fifth time on that he does that, even that annoys me a little bit. Just a little bit.

    I participate by being at a show and focusing on the musicians, bobbing my head as the music drives me. I don’t need to pretend I’m part of the band. I’ve got my own band for that.

  3. All that said, OK-Go are all about coordination, so I don’t begrudge them this little audience participation game.

  4. ladymisskirroyale

    I hear you, Mod. When I go to a show, I like to listen to and watch the musicians. I’m annoyed by people who talk through the performances, kiss through the performances, check their FB feed through the performances. People! And yes, a little hand clapping is fun but a little goes a loooooonnnnnnggggg way.

    I thought the Ok-Go video was interesting, though. I don’t know whether I would like to participate by pushing my phone rather than watching the musicians.

    Maybe it’s like the people who go to an art museum and spend all the time reading the placards or people watching rather than looking at the art.

  5. trigmogigmo

    I have to say, I found this to be pretty gimmicky and uninteresting. Ira Glass and his show are great; I presume this was some kind of segment in a TAL live broadcast? Maybe it just didn’t come through in the mix but I didn’t think the audience participation was doing much in the end. It certainly didn’t sound to me like they were actually providing a rhythm track with their sounds. Despite the evidently clockwork timing, the whole thing seemed to drag!

  6. I have a contrarian streak that would prevent me from participating in this the same way it won’t allow me to clap along with a song when prompted, or cheer louder than the ladies/people-on-the-other-side-of-the-room. Oddly enough, I will participate in the Wave but I can’t tell whether I’m just doing that as a goof or not.

    That said, OK Go continues to impress me with the intricacy and the lengths to which they’re willing to go for their parlor tricks.

  7. ladymisskirroyale

    I have to say that I’ve been amused by the few Ok Go videos I’ve seen. That Rube Goldberg video is pretty interesting; it made me think of other instances when these devices have shown up in video or film. Possible LMS?

  8. I am kind of fickle on this sort of stuff — dating back to the Ramones running around with their Gabba Gabba Hey signs.

    On one hand, it’s nice to be acknowledged as an audience member — unlike Dylan, sometimes Neil, and several bands I’ve seen — Strokes,New Order.

    On the other hand — I don’t like total audience sing-alongs (Tom Petty) overly chatty types (Chris Isaak) or multiple swaying and arm waving routines (U2) or forced clap-alongs.

    One of the best I ever saw at crowd engagement is Nellie McKay, who is very funny, and can weave the audience into the show without making you feel stupid, but she’s more of an off kilter torch singer now..

    I get why OK GO does this stuff during a time when it’s hard to get attention for rock bands, but I don’t have to go along with it. I hope this isn’t where shows are going.

  9. ladymisskirroyale

    Well said, sir.

  10. I saw Tom Waits once and people started clapping along to a song. He stopped the song and asked them not to do it anymore because it was throwing him off. He even said “It’s not you; it’s me.” But it was definitely them, not him.

  11. The guy writes “Clap Hands,” then has a problem when his fans heed his song’s plea?

  12. Off topic but am I the only one getting hit with a torrent of spam in the Recent Comments?

  13. Thanks for pointing that out. That’s the second time that’s happened this week. I’ve got to get word out to The Back Office to tighten this ship the F up.

  14. A fair point, but that audience could have been the densest population of embarrassingly fawning fan-boys (myself included ) that I’ve ever been in, and their starry eyed adulation seemed to severely hinder their ability to both clap in time and recognize when audience participation is not a good idea. Later on, someone sang along at the top of their lungs to God’s Away On Business but unfortunately, Tom was too polite to tell him to sit down and shut his soup cooler.

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