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OK Go, "Discover new Rock First" stage

Decades ago in some musty government computer lab, the Internet was born. And the groundwork was laid for OK Go to become rock stars.

The Chicago quartet's albums are as catchy as they come, but it was their DIY videos for the singles A Million Ways and Here It Goes Again that made them YouTube superstars. The latter, featuring the band dancing in unison on treadmills, earned OK Go a spot performing the same routine live on this year's MTV Video Music Awards.

The day after Thanksgiving, singer Damian Kulash called from his in-laws' house in Long Island, N.Y., to discuss OK Go's enormous Internet following and his role as one of the brainiest singers in rock.

What haven't you been asked about the treadmills yet?

(Laughs) I doubt there's much, to tell you the truth.

How about this: Do you actually work out on a treadmill?

No, I don't. When I have the chance to work out, I swim. But it's pretty hard to find that time on tour.

So there may be a swimming pool-themed video in the works?

(Laughs) I suppose it could happen.

Give me the CliffsNotes version on how the Here It Goes Again video came to be.

The A Million Ways dance was a routine we came up with so we could just drop our instruments in live shows and break into dance - the idea being that if you can keep people confused, it's a much more interesting show. I got my sister to choreograph this dance for us, because she had been a ballroom dancer for many years, and we shot this videotape of it, just as a practice tape to see what it looked like. We put it on the Internet and before you know it, it was downloaded a bajillion times. ... We called my sister back and were like, "We've got to try this again." She proposed the treadmills.

The videos for A Million Ways and Here It Goes Again were both available free before they went on iTunes. If you make another video like that now, will it go to iTunes first? In other words, will your label start to view that as just another potential revenue stream?

To tell you the truth, I don't think that's what we're going to do next. When something weird succeeds like that, the bad side is, everybody expects you to be like, "Now we're the dancing band! Yay!" The reason you end up in a rock band is you want to make whatever you feel like making. I think the last thing we'd do is repeat the same thing again, you know?

Trilogies are huge, though. You can't just have two. You have to have a trilogy.

We've got some pretty good ideas, and we'll see. Culturally, people are waiting for the next one. But there's just other things we feel like making first.

You went to Brown, you had an op-ed piece published in the New York Times, and OK Go has been on NPR's This American Life. Are you comfortable with the label of "thinking man's rocker"?

Absolutely. I'm flattered when people give it to me, to tell you the truth. Rock and roll for the last 20 years has suffered this marketing divide, I think, which is that serious rock, or artistic rock, or smart rock, is all dour and depressive and mopey, and then fun rock and anything with a beat to it is glib and stupid and happy and for preteens. Being able to re-establish a space in between where something can be fun and also activate your mind at the same time seems like a pretty decent project.

If they ever brought back Rock and Roll Jeopardy, which musicians do you think would make good opponents?

I suspect Wayne Coyne (of the Flaming Lips) would do a very good job on that show. He seems to have a killer fact memory. I suspect that Amanda (Palmer) from the Dresden Dolls would do a really good job. And anyone from Death Cab for Cutie. Those guys are, like, total nerds. And I certainly don't use "nerd" as an insult.

30 Seconds to Mars, main stage

Jared Leto stood at the lip of the Jannus Landing stage, drinking in the raucous screams of a sold-out crowd and thanking them for a miracle.

"This has probably been the most exciting and amazing year. I just want to thank you for making it happen," Leto told his fans Nov. 7.

The impossible task Leto's fans performed? Transforming a band once thought of as a self-absorbed Hollywood pretty boy's plaything into a legitimate musical force.

Over the past year, Leto's four-man emo outfit, 30 Seconds to Mars, has sold more than 500,000 copies of its album A Beautiful Lie; won an MTV Video Music Award; and filmed what is reportedly the first American video shot entirely in China, for the new single From Yesterday. Leto directed.

This success came through a year and a half of relentless touring, opening for Chevelle, Audioslave and others and playing festivals, including Lollapalooza. When 30 Seconds to Mars takes the stage Sunday, it will be the band's sixth show in the Tampa Bay area since August 2005 - the seventh if you count a March acoustic set at Vinyl Fever.

Before this year - and probably even now - Leto was mostly recognized as the crushworthy Jordan Catalano on TV's My So-Called Life or as Cameron Diaz's former fiance. (He'll next be seen as Mark David Chapman, John Lennon's killer, in Chapter 27.)

30 Seconds to Mars, featuring Leto's brother Shannon on drums, was lumped in with other actor-fronted bands; in other words, people assumed they stunk.

But fans connected with the band's searing riffs and Leto's leave-it-all-onstage showmanship. The band's image thrives on Leto's pretty mug and its iconography: They arrive onstage wearing masks and waving a flag; their Web site and merchandise are covered in strange symbols; and hardcore fans, who call themselves "the Echelon," often arrive in costume, wearing all black or white splattered with red.

Leto still has his haters. But not at that Jannus Landing show earlier this month. Near the end, Leto hopped off the stage mid The Kill, running around the courtyard, sprinting through the stunned fans, microphone in hand.

"We love you, we love you, we love you," he said as the band left the stage. "I promise you one thing, I'll never forget this night as long as I live."

Maybe he was lying - he is, after all, an actor, and a good one at that. It's unlikely, though. Almost as unlikely as his band's breakthrough year.

Taking Back Sunday, main stage

Taking Back Sunday has risen steadily through the alt-punk ranks since forming in New York in the late '90s. Energetic singles like Cute Without The E (Cut from the Team) and MakeDamnSure, from their latest album Louder Now, are emo staples and have helped turn the band into festival favorites.

Bassist Matt Rubano called from London, where he was brewing tea in preparation for a string of shows, to discuss Chuck Norris, Bat Boy and the band members' video game prowess.

I have no idea if this is true, but your Wikipedia page says you once played bass in a musical about Bat Boy.

I did. While I was in New York, playing with different bands and doing session work and stuff, one of the ways I found to make money and survive was on the Broadway musical scene, which, if you can read music and play well, is the easiest job you can get, because it's only a couple of hours a day, and they pay fairly well. I got one of the quirkier ones: An off-Broadway musical about the supposedly fictional phenomenon of Bat Boy. It was a really cool show.

Is Bat Boy as cool in real life as he seems in the Weekly World News?

The dude playing him was really cool. We hung out. I actually dated this girl for a few years that was Bat Boy's girlfriend's roommate. So through Bat Boy, I found love.

Wikipedia also helpfully points out that you share a birthday with Chuck Norris. Does Chuck Norris know this?

I don't know, man. We've got to somehow cross paths with Chuck. We're huge fans. My favorite Chuck Norris fact is: When Chuck Norris does pushups, he's not pushing himself up, but the world down.

One place I always hear Taking Back Sunday is in Hollister. Do you guys consider your music "shopping music"?

Damn, no! Do people listen to rock and roll when they're shopping? The people that come see us go so crazy while we're playing that I consider our music something more to dance and throw each other around to. I don't really think that would work in a Hollister, but maybe it does.

You've got a song on the Madden '07 soundtrack. Do you play it?

I'm supposed to get a copy in the mail, but I don't know where it is. I'm the only gamer in the band, really, but literally everyone is playing Mortal Kombat now, and it's become a bit of a morale booster for us. . . . I was the reigning lord of the bus until we got an updated version. Now I've sunk to pretty much the bottom of the totem pole. Which is cool. I'm into Darwinism, man.

Jay Cridlin can be reached at (727) 893-8336 or


Main stage

My Chemical Romance: These New Jersey punks and Hot Topic heroes hit it big with 2004's platinum Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, featuring the singles Helena and I'm Not Okay (I Promise). Their latest, the ambitious The Black Parade, is as experimental (a cameo by Liza Minnelli?) as it is loud.

Angels and Airwaves: Ex-Blink-182 singer Tom DeLonge hooked up with members of the Distillers and the Offspring to forge a more epic sound. The soaring anthem The Adventure helped the band win mtvU's top award, the Woodie of the Year.

Three Days Grace: The crunchy Canadian grunge outfit boasts a handful of modern rock hits, including the singles Animal I Have Become and Pain from their latest album, One-X.

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus: The Jacksonville punks aren't as jokey as their name implies - the single Face Down deals with domestic abuse, and the band will headline the 2007 Take Action! Tour, benefiting teens in crisis.

Kill Hannah: The up-and-coming Chicago collective specializes in danceable electronic punk, along the lines of the Bravery or an amped-up Killers. The Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan is a fan.

Say Anything: This L.A. band's sound - melodic pop punk fueled by singer Max Bemis' raspy growl - has helped the band cultivate a steady following.

'Discover New Rock First' stage

Plain White T's: First came a supporting slot on the Nintendo Fusion Tour, then the poppy Chicago punks were tabbed as a last-minute opening act for Panic! At The Disco. The T's won an mtvU Woodie for best emerging artist.

Shiny Toy Guns: How danceable is the indie synth-rock foursome's sound? Singer Carah Faye Charnow was long rumored to be the voice on Paris Hilton's album.

Luna Halo: This alternative Christian band is glam enough to open for Rock Star Supernova in Las Vegas this New Year's Eve. See their catchy single Kings and Queens for proof.

Fast facts

Doors open at 10 a.m. Sunday at Ford Amphitheatre, U.S. 301 N and Interstate 4, Tampa. $34-$68.20. Call (813) 740-2446,or go to The pit is sold out.


Next Big Thing 6

Doors open at 10 a.m. Sunday at Ford Amphitheatre, U.S. 301 N and Interstate 4, Tampa. $34-$68.20. Call (813) 740-2446,or go to The pit is sold out.