Local Current Blog

OK Computer(s): One night, three Radiohead albums at First Avenue

Al Church plays with Ambassadors at First Avenue on Dec. 17, 2016 (Nate Ryan/MPR)

Radiohead’s classic album OK Computer is turning 20 years old this year. To celebrate the album, and the British band’s broader legacy, local musicians are hitting First Avenue on Friday night to play OK Computer and two more Radiohead albums in their entirety. Participating musician Al Church recently stopped by to talk with The Current’s Brian Oake and Jill Riley about the upcoming celebration.

Brian Oake: How do you find yourself at the center of something celebrating the legacy of Radiohead?

Well — anger. They’ve passed on Minneapolis, it’s been, what, 20 years? They haven’t played in Minneapolis since the State Theatre on OK Computer, that tour. That’s the last time they’ve been to Minneapolis. I was checking out their tour schedule and it’s like “Kansas City again…” I’m not going to drive down to Kansas City. When that came out, there was this anger that came through me.

Brian Oake: Well, maybe instead of a tribute to some of their greatest works, we should organize a CD burning or something. Maybe it’s time to tell Thom Yorke how we feel.

Exactly. This is what Minneapolis feels.

Brian Oake: Radiohead, whether or not they’ve spurned us for 20 years, [are] obviously one of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed bands for a very long time. Tell us about what’s going to be happening this week at First Avenue.

This week, there’s going to be three records being played. So, it’s not just OK Computer, but we’re going to end with OK Computer. We’re doing that in its entirety and also this band called the Teddy Holidays is doing the album In Rainbows and then we have Kid Villain doing Kid A.

Brian Oake: So, all these in their entirety?

In their entirety. It’s going to be a full-on Radiohead explosion.

Brian Oake: Who needs them? Plenty of local talent.

Yeah, right! Plenty of tenors. It’s going to be a real fun night. Learning all these songs, it’s really been an educational thing as well.

Jill Riley: Who are some of the special guests that are going to be dropping by?

We have Leah Ottman playing violin. Chris Koza, Gabriel Jorgensen from Dreamspook. Aby Wolf is going to be doing a song, which I’m really excited about, [and] the other groups as well. There’s tons of people sitting in, a lot of Minneapolis musicians.

Brian Oake: So, for someone like me who is not a musician, I can listen to Radiohead and realize: sometimes it just sounds like someone squawking over some electronic bleeps and bloops, but I know there’s much more going on in these songs. I know these are accomplished musicians. What’s happening in a Radiohead song that a layman like me [might not appreciate]? [Are] these hard songs to play?

They are. I find myself going to YouTube and checking out 1997 bootlegs. They play them differently too, but when you see the live versions of the OK Computer songs, there’s just a lot of guitars and keyboards. Lyrically too, it’s weirdly [relevant] to all these things that are happening now.

Brian Oake: Well, it’s like their 1984, it’s the dystopian-future thing for sure.

It is. In each song there’s something, oh, like that happened this year!

Brian Oake: When we talked about that record, who gets to do “Fitter Happier,” you’re just going to turn that over to a robot voice?

That’s Chris Koza.

Brian Oake: For real?! This is by far my favorite Radiohead record — and I’m not a huge Radiohead guy, but I do love this record. That’s the one where it’s kind of the robot voice where it feels like THX 1138 or 1984. At no point does it seem more dystopian, futuristic, awful…and that’s where Chris Koza is stepping in, huh?