Tuesday, 11:54 p.m.: “Okay, so we didn’t bring our treadmills . . .” It’s an uncommon apology, yes. But Damian Kulash, the peachy-faced lead singer of OK Go, likely senses that the crowd at Safari Sam’s is hoping roadies will suddenly drag out a fleet of exercise machines to repeat the nerdcore choreography that led to instant YouTube fame, and a subsequent Grammy nomination. Rather, the dapper foursome, dressed in elegant jewel-toned dress shirts and richly embroidered ties (I even spied a brooch), bounces through several poppy hits, including “Here It Goes Again,” in front of a projection screen of kaleidoscopic graphics. At one point, they OK-Go down into the crowd, the audience seated like intoxicated kindergartners at the foot of their microphone stand. A sweet acoustic version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is garnished with a miniature xylophone, but the din of bar chatter prompts Kulash to bellow midcarol, “Hey — shut the fuck up!” before they return to the stage to complete their hooky, energetic set. At this point, bushels of confetti explode from the rafters, and orange nylon wind cassocks operated by turbo fans become erect, and whip about behind them in spasms. As they wrap up with (non-treadmill-based) choreography to “A Million Ways,” my comrade gulps a whiskey and shouts: “I like them — they have chutzpah!”
Wednesday, 9:20 p.m.:Rob Giles is standing center stage at the Hotel Café, holding his hands up to form a circle. Pausing for effect, he announces with deadpan gravitas, “I give you my word: There will be absolutely zero Christmas music for the next hour of your life.” He’d already earned a few bonus points for opening his set with a ukulele number, but now I’m increasingly optimistic. True to the pledge, he sticks with original, confessional numbers on acoustic guitar and piano, his boyish face at times flushed crimson in para-orgasmic contortions. Backed by a full band — including an electric violin to unfurl strained drama during the swelling crescendos — Giles is rewarded with a standing ovation midset, before resuming the love-themed songs ripe for heavy rotation on Star 98.7. He’ll probably not spit beer on you, or hump anyone in a bikini onstage, but his James Blunt-y singer-songwriter soft rock might become the tear-jerking favorite for wedding receptions of the future.
Thursday, 11:23 a.m.: “It’s time to communicate with the motherfucking dead.” Ryan the Magestic, billed as “The Best Magician, Ever,” is warming the crowd at a holiday party for the Hollywood lounge Three Clubs. He conveys otherworldly advice via magical chalkboards before the venue’s regular burlesque troupe, The Tease @ 3’s, breaks the spooky vibe with some vintage-inspired T&A. Featuring Kitten de Ville and Eliza Bane, the dancers flutter feather boas, strip off corsets, and pop candy canes into the open mouths of male audience members. Pathologically charming Mistress of Ceremonies Bella Beretta takes the stage sporting a detailed ensemble modeled after A Christmas Story’s infamous Leg Lamp. The buxom Beretta has slipped a fringed hoop skirt as a lampshade over her head, and prances about in thigh-high fishnets before whipping it all off and shaking her ample bosoms at the crowd. A drunken, randy heckler falls victim to her sharp tongue, as she cocks an eyebrow and interrupts his chatter with: “If your mouth is going to move that fast . . . keep it useful.” Mae West is somewhere in the cosmos, communicating a paranormal high five.