I was trying to remember the last time the Trunk Space was this packed. Perhaps when Kimya Dawson played the Indie 500 in April, but probably not even then. At any rate, the very first show for Okilly Dokilly, the "metal" band themed after the bug-eyed neighbor from The Simpsons, Ned Flanders, quickly sold out.
Over 1,100 people RSVP’d to the band’s inaugural performance, which would have probably flattened the relatively small space of the DIY venue, The Trunk Space. Still, there were a lot of people here, everyone hoping to catch a glimpse of their internet heroes.
Who couldn’t help but love the priceless photo-op of five bespectacled Flanders lookalikes and their ricochet around the blogosphere? Despite knowing little, if anything, about how to play metal, five local dudes — Head Nead (vocals), Thread Ned (bass), Red Ned (synth guitar), Stead Ned (guitar) and Bled Ned (drums) — devoted themselves to one rather specific joke. And people loved it.
Okilly Dokilly was mentioned in TIME, Rip It Up, AV Club, New Times, and dozens of other noteworthy blogs (heh), which earned them almost 300,000 YouTube plays, nearly 30,000 Facebook fans, landed on the frontpage of reddit and all kinds of other attention. This also drew a lot of negative feedback, many accusing the band of having terrible demos (they’re demos, c’mon) and not actually being metal or something. Of course, we had to see what it would be like ourselves.
The band went all out for their first public appearance in matching green and pink sweaters. The lot behind Trunk Space was transformed into the Springfield Elementary School Carnival, complete with extra-large bowling, pink donuts from Bragg’s Diner, fortune telling, trivia contests, a skillful Simpsons-style caricature artist and even a photo board cut-out for touristy snapshots.
“I had no idea this whole thing was happening,” Head Ned told me before the show started. “[Red Ned] just told me, there’s going to be a carnival.”
Things were about as rowdy as a carnival, starting with Andy Warpigs, dressed in Kurt Cobain-style Mickey Mouse glasses and red flannel, tore through the first set with his trademark “Fuck It All Up And Get High” attitude. The entire room was packed almost to the door and I couldn’t even see Andy, but I could hear him just fine as he played “Ego Death,” “Neet” and “Dog Ate My Dope” (his dog really did eat his dope one time).
Before his set, Jason Kron of Hug of War marched up to me and, without warning, passionately pecked me on the lips, smearing lipstick all over my face. I guess this was an advance apology for his song “They Won’t Get Me,” which features lyrics like “The Phoenix New Times and its vampire staff / write about bands playing on Satan's behalf.” But that song has never bothered me.
Hug of War was wearing black-and-white striped pants with a suit jacket splattered in geometric upchuck, complete with hot pink flamingo sunglasses. He was somewhere between a cool, eccentric music teacher, but his hair evoked Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka. Hug of War’s intergalactic “Be Yourself” message seemed to resonate with the bobbing sea of heads he rapped to. The multi-colored horned skullcap that he wore, once belonging to the late Space-Alien Donald, was a fitting tribute while he dropped “My Best Friend From Outer Space.”
“The thing that gets people away from television is a band about television,” Hug of War had said to me earlier. We talked about sudden fame and how we hoped this would attract more attention for the local music scene. It’s not everyday folks become internet famous, which is why Okilly Dokilly’s choice to keep their debut show at Trunk Space is honorable. They could have moved it to any number of eager venues, but decided to host it where many locals play their first gig. (However, they do have another show at Rebel Lounge on September 25, and Fathers Day is rumored to play.)
Man-Cat played one of their best sets in recent memory and the crowd returned the high energy as well. Staticky feedback loops effects, samples of voices blurped and hissed like a malfunctioning spacecraft while waving their mini-billboards for “Repeat The Sound.” I’ve always appreciated the trickle-down economics of songwriting that Man-Cat employs because it’s a very important message about how music is used to spite creativity in the modern age. A message like this fits in well for a sold-out show based on an obnoxious cartoon character.
Finally, the moment of truth — Okilly Dokilly took the stage to blasts of applause and screeching cheers as they opened with “They Warned Me.” It started slow but quickly grew sludgy. The synth from Red Ned gave the band a more melodic hardcore flavor, but Stead Ned’s metal power chords did strike some metal territory while Head Ned’s metal voice sounded high-pitched, like that noise rabbits make when slaughtered.
Then I wondered why I, like many others apparently, got so wrapped up in how genuinely "metal" this was anyway. If Ned Flanders really did front a Nedal band, it would probably sound accessible and geeky anyway. Even if this music lacked the malice of Cannibal Corpse or something equally dripping with evil, it doesn’t matter. It’s gotta be so annoying to people who can't get over the 'authenticity factor' that Okilly Dokilly wrote catchy, fun and technically skillful songs in spite of everything.
For example, how they retooled the Offspring’s “Gone Away” to have the lyrics “It feels and it feels and it feels like I'm wearing nothing at all” or how they made “All That is Left,” a song about left-handedness, feel apocalyptic and brooding. And I’ve never seen a drummer more enraged than Bled Ned, who I swear was going to crush his drumset.
The crowd ate it up, heckling and spouting Simpsons memes. When the band threw a giant inflatable donut into the audience, kids crowdsurfed in it and pounded it until it was just a sad deflated sack of air. “When you’re moshing, be sure to respect your neighborino,” Head Ned cautioned. He was looking red in the face from all the high-pitched screaming he was doing.
Okilly Dokilly performed a total of nine songs, which is pretty impressive, given they only had a few weeks to learn and write these tunes, not to mention the massive amount of work that was put into all the dressings and details of the show. There are many interesting conclusions to draw from this night, each as a comment on consumerism or parody or mainstream art or whatever it means to go viral. But dig out your own interpretations. The final thing I’m concerned about here is that a good time was had by all.
Last Night: Okilly Dokilly, Man-Cat, Hug of War, Andy Warpigs at The Trunk Space.
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The Crowd: Lots of youngsters and weirdoes that really love Matt Groening.
Overheard: “It’s better than Slayer!”
Personal Bias: It should be mentioned that this is not the first hard rock incarnation of Ned Flanders music. In 2001, there was the brief-lived Ned Zeppelin, but Okilly Dokilly seems far better.
Follow Troy Farah on Twitter.