Saturday, November 9, 2019

REVIEW: OK Go in Concert

My family and I had the pleasure to see OK Go in concert on November 2.

The family-friendly show was a concert but also a bit of performance art —though they played live, their performances were often played in sync with the videos for which they are famous, many of which have gone viral.

And showcasing their creativity and playfulness, they invited the audience to download an app to their phones and play along with one of their numbers, with cues given onscreen on what notes to hit.

At various moments in the show, they also paused for some Q&A, displaying lots of humor and wit. And, of course, there was showmanship—in addition to the videos, at some points in the show, they had machines that blasted confetti onto the audience during a few numbers. For the encore, they invited kids to come on stage to dance as they performed a cover of Blur’s “Song 2,” as many in the audience joined them in their seats.

One of the highlights was their talking about how they stumbled across their niche, first playing the video clip below before they came on stage, from a local morning show in Chicago in 1998, when they were just starting out (, though no need to watch it.)

After the band came out to sing their first number, they told the story behind the clip. Apparently, the show didn't have the capability for bands to play live, so acts were asked to lip sync their performance. So they instead decided to choreograph a boy band dance with a fake rock band air-guitaring in the background.

The lead singer at the time was working as an engineer at the National Public Radio (NPR) station in Chicago and asked co-workers at the radio station to play in the fake band—two of the people in the band in the above clip (who they showed in close up stills on screen) were now-notable NPR radio personalities Ira Glass (This American Life) and Peter Sagal (host of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me).

Shortly after this appearance, when Glass was doing some live shows, he asked the band to open for him—and specifically asked whether they would perform the boy band dance from the above video. They did and it got such a positive response from the audience it ended up becoming part of their act/niche. This led to their other videos—many of the questions during the Q&A asked about their creative process.

It was an enjoyable evening.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Shout Out to the Kevin and Bean Show

A slightly shorter version of this post was posted on my Facebook page.

Gene "Bean" Baxter and Kevin Ryder
I want to give a shout out to the Kevin and Bean Morning Show on the “World Famous KROQ” radio station in L.A. — after 30 years on the air, one of the duo, Gene “Bean” Baxter, has decided to move back to his birth country of England to begin a new phase of his life and career. Today was his last day on the air. While Bean resisted any attempts for a going away party or concert, late night talk host Jimmy Kimmel and podcaster and comedian Adam Carolla—who both pretty much launched their careers as regulars on the Kevin and Bean Show, showed up in studio to wish Bean well and talk about some high (and low) lights of the show. Others who called in to wish Bean well included David Grohl and Ryan Seacrist.

While I was in college here in L.A., KROQ rose to prominence in the 1980s playing punk rock and then New Wave, then became known for being on the cutting edge of alternative rock in the ‘90s. Kevin and Bean began inauspiciously on New Year’s Eve 1989 (to terrible reviews and ratings the first few years) until finding its footing. In fact, I recalled hearing them on the air on their first day. To me, they seemed to be a poor attempt to follow the format of Mark and Brian, the morning DJs on rival L.A. rock station KLOS (who themselves stepped down from their show in 2012 after 25 years, also a remarkable run), but they soon found their own voice.

I haven’t listened to them straight for all 30 years since I’ve alternated in stretches that sometimes lasted years, often listening to other stations including Mark and Brian and National Public Radio, but over the last decade, the Kevin and Bean Show have usually been my main company on my morning commute. It was sometimes just background noise and the supporting players changed over the years, but it certainly was comfort listening that seems worth noting now that the team is breaking up. In 2015, the National Association of Broadcasters inducted Kevin and Bean into its Broadcasting Hall of Fame—and tomorrow night, they will be inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in New York.

In addition to Kimmel and Corolla, Kevin and Bean helped put on the media map others like physician Dr. Drew Pinsky, and comedian and impressionist Ralph Garman. Radio is a volatile industry, so this 30-year run — with it partially ending on its own terms — is quite a remarkable feat.

The last show was a lovely and funny send off. (I couldn't listen to the whole show live but heard much of it later in the day since each show is available as a podcast.) In addition to the guests mentioned above, the show included calls from the Poorman — an iconic KROQ DJ from back in the day who was fired from the show 23 years earlier after an incident with Bean (though they buried the hatchet, you could still hear the animosity)—and Ralph Garman.

Garman had been on the show for 18 years before he too was let go under somewhat mysterious circumstances. The move upset a lot of listeners, and the morning team and radio station seemed to think it best to cut all ties with Garman afterwards. (In fact, my wife was a big fan of Garman and stopped listening to the show afterwards; he's since established his own successful morning podcast, the Ralph Report, and my wife and I have attended his occasional recorded comedy shows with director and actor Kevin Smith, Hollywood Babble-On).

But on this morning, Garman called in and it was an incredibly sweet moment; Bean gave him a lovely introduction, crediting Garman with creating some of the best moments of the show, including an infamous incident in which he got through to the President of France at the time, Jacques Chirac, by impersonating Jerry Lewis, which Bean said was the single greatest moment of the show. Though Lewis threatened to sue the radio stationed and the show was forbidden from ever replaying the tape or speaking about the incident, with both Chirac and Lewis now passed (and under new station ownership), they spoke about the bit and played a brief clip from it. Bean told Garman he planned to mention Garman at the Hall of Fame event and said the day would not have felt right without hearing from Garman. Great moment.

Photo from Bean's last day at KROQ (Bean is not in the photo since he has been broadcasting the show remotely
from his home for many years)