All photos: Steve Jennings
You may not know OK Go by name, but you've probably seen their notoriously popular video for “Here It Goes Again,” in which the four bandmembers (Damian Kulash, vocals/guitar; Andy Ross, guitar/keyboards, Tim Norwind, bass; and Dan Konopka, drums) choreograph their hit song while walking/dancing on treadmills. The video numbered 10 million-plus hits on YouTube, as well as massive airplay on MTV, VH1 and FUSE. This insanely popular video helped attract a full house at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall in early November at the beginning of the band's fall/winter tour, which precedes their opening slot for Death Cab for Cutie in early 2007.
While this initial success is easily selling tickets, front-of-house engineer Mike Kent is finding the tour a bit more difficult: In addition to relying on house-provided gear, Kent is also acting as monitor engineer. According to the engineer, who joined the band in February 2005 after stints with Everclear, The Jayhawks and Old 97's, “Unfortunately, a lot of bands at this level can't afford to take multiple guys. I carried racks for a while, but then I realized that almost every night I was seeing something in the venues that I could use so I stopped lugging them around.”
However, Kent says that this band is very easy to work with, monitor-wise, as each member wants only the basics in their mix. “Damian just wants his vocals and nothing else in his monitor; he can pick up everything else onstage,” Kent says of Kulash's mix, which is heard through the venue's McCauley SM95-2 wedges. Norwind, who just wants to hear his vocals, gets the same treatment. Ross and Konopka's mixes are sent through Sennheiser Evolution 300 IEM in-ear monitor systems. “Andy just wants keyboard, his vocals and a little of Tim's vocals,” Kent explains. “Dan just wants a little bit of kick, bass and a little bit of Damian's guitar. Then you learn how to instruct the house monitor guy.”
Mike Kent is working double-duty, handling FOH and monitors.
In most cases, Kent runs the four monitor mixes from FOH, which streamlines his job and cuts down on costs for the band.
Aside from eight channels reserved for monitors and two for an iPod (used for a dance routine at the end of the show), the band occupies 19 inputs of the venue's 40-input Soundcraft K2 console. Bass and keyboards run direct, a Sennheiser 915 mikes the snare, and 604s and 914s capture the toms and overheads, respectively. Kent mikes the guitars with e 609 Silvers, and puts an e 902 on an Ampeg 115 bass amp, which Kent uses on Kulash's guitar as a “boost amp” for “a nice, rich, low-end sound,” he says. “We can roll all of the high out of it, so when he kicks it on, it sounds great.” All vocals are miked with Sennheiser e 945s, and during the band's two mid-set acoustic numbers — which they perform on a round riser that's rolled out into the middle of the crowd — Kent uses the Evolution wireless 550 with a 945 capsule.
Save for a dbx 166 compressor on the lead vocals, Kent uses very little EQ or processing. Computer-savvy keyboardist Ross manages the samples and presets via Native Instruments Kontakt, which runs on a Mac Mini through an M-Audio Axiom USB MIDI controller.
For the San Francisco date, the band had the advantage of playing through the venue's L-Acoustics KUDO loudspeaker system, which comprises twin arrays, each containing five KUDO boxes per side perched high above two stacks of three SB-118 single 18-inch subs. L-Acoustics' 115XT HiQ side-balcony fills and a flown pair of 115XT rear-balcony fills round out the package. Powering the KUDO system and subs are L-Acoustics' LA 48 Class-TD amplifiers (with Lab Gruppen fP 6400 power amps), while LA 17 Class-A/B amplifiers (with Lab Gruppen fP 2600s) power the fill speakers. “We were hitting it pretty hard, but it still had a great response and seemed to really help with the high-end reflections,” says Kent.
Sonically, the band delivers a tight, spirited set of songs with plenty of onstage banter and jokes in between. Building on the sonic audio wall is an intricate video display combining graphics and animated images (including a spinning treadmill) with jittery, ultraclose-up shots of the band courtesy of tiny video cameras stuck to the bandmembers' Sennheiser microphones. This, of course, means Kent has a third role on tour: video director. Let's just hope that when the job of “exercise equipment manager” becomes part of the tour support team, they'll get this guy some help!
Heather Johnson is a Mix contributing editor.