Best Gig Ever

DV Cam: Agent Kula
Digital Photography: Agent Todd
Mission Inspired by: Agent Lee
Featuring: Lee, Kula, Todd, Dippold, Leonard, Ace$Thugg, King, Montague, Marhekifson, Becket, Jester, Lang, Harms, Taylor, Been, Gill, Fite, Collis, V, Rosenthal, Ward, Conner, Tuculescu, Cooper, Wright, Godwin, Nawrocki, Verdugo, Lodwick, White, + more

Agent Lee approached me a few weeks ago with a wonderfully simple idea. “Best gig ever,” he said. “Pick a struggling rock band and turn their small gig into the best show of their lives.” We had already thrown a birthday party for a stranger; why not throw an awesome concert for an unknown band?


Best Gig Ever mastermind, Agent Lee

The first step was picking the band. It was critical that the gig would have zero audience. My biggest fear was showing up to do this and finding the band already had a packed house. I started scanning the calendars of the smaller size rock clubs in Manhattan. I looked for the worst timeslots possible, to further ensure there would be little crowd. On the Mercury Lounge site, I found a band that had a Sunday night gig at 10 PM, a pretty horrible slot. The $8 cover wasn’t helping things either.

Burlington, Vermont’s Ghosts of Pasha were on their first tour ever. They had just recorded an ep of 5 songs this summer, and were excited to get out and perform the new songs. They had an NYC gig booked at another club on Friday night, and then their Mercury Lounge gig on Sunday. I figured if they had any friends in town, they would all go to the Friday night show with the $5 cover rather than the Sunday 10 PM show with the $8 cover.

An added plus about Ghosts of Pasha (GOP) is that they actually sounded pretty good. I downloaded their ep from their website, and found myself enjoying the songs. Their influences were certainly up my alley. From the GOP website blog:

October 13 , 2004

the band is sounding very tight and getting pretty energetic.
the new songs are in that vein of pop.

(think elvis costello/wilco/elliot smith/george harrison/elephant 6/
apples in stereo/flaming lips/suede/radiohead)

We met at Boss Tweed bar around the corner from the Mercury Lounge. I went over to the bar by myself to stake the place out. Turns out, the show had been pushed to 10:30, which helped us even more. There were about 20 people watching the 9:30 act, and I was worried that they would stay for GOP. A quick look at the “tally sheet” at the door (where the house manager marks who everyone who pays is there to see) showed all the other bands for the evening having around 20 paying customers and GOP having 1 as of 9:45 PM.


Empty Club. The people on the left would leave moments after this photo.

When the 9:30 act finished up their set and slowly began packing up their gear. The crowd quickly began to leave, some lingering to talk with friends. When GOP began setting up, I called Agent Kula and gave him the go-ahead to send all of the IE Agents over. By now the remaining fans from the 9:30 show had left, and it looked to the members of GOP that they were in for a slim crowd. But before they could even start their sound check, IE Agents began pouring in.


The crowd starts to form

The final audience count:

3 Normal Paying Customers
35 IE Agents

If we hadn’t of been there, GOP would have either cancelled or played a show for 3 people.


Milo Finch – Vocals, Keys, Guitar


Brad Vargo – Bass


Chris Partyka – Guitar


Ezra Oklan – Drums

They began to sound check, and the crowd was hyped from the start. As Drummer Ezra Oklan began to beat his drums, the crowd clapped along with him enthusiastically.

When frontman Milo Finch introduced the band, the crowd went wild. IE Agents showed immense enthusiasm throughout the show. Huge cheers after each song. Recognition cheers when a new song would begin. Dancing throughout. We did our best to not be too over the top. I was very worried that GOP would think we were making fun of them, which was the last thing we were trying to do. I instructed everyone to just act like GOP was your favorite band, and behave accordingly.

Since we had all downloaded GOP’s mp3′s from their site, we actually did know all the words to five of their songs. We also knew the names of songs to request. After a few fans frantically called for “Shut-Ins”, GOP delivered, playing the tune the very next song.

After the first song several members of the crowd yelled “GOP!”. Lead singer Milo laughed and replied, “Yeah we’re GOP. The good one,” and then ripped into the second song of the night, the aptly titled “New York, New York.”


Two IE Agents boasted “Pasha” temporary tattoos


Agent Montague holds up a lighter during the evening’s first ballad.
(photo taken at a slow shutter speed, of course)

A few songs later, a chant began in the crowd “Pasha! Pasha!”. Lead singer Milo laughed again and chanted back “Audience! Audience!” I’m not sure if he wondered why the show was going so well, but Milo was definitely having a blast interacting with the rawkus crowd.


IE Agents groove along

The evening progressed in a nice slow build. Applause turned into chants and screams. Enthusiastic dancing turned to wild dancing and moshing. Wild dancing turned into chicken fighting.


An IE Agent on the shoulders of his friend, chicken fight style!

The band got more and more theatrical as the set progressed. As IE Agents stepped up their support for GOP, GOP stepped up the show. The guitarist and the lead singer were particularly energetic. The guitarist thrashed about on the stage, jumping up and down. The lead singer threw his mic stand to the ground several times. At one point he even tried playing his guitar with the mic stand.

The evening hit a clear high point when lead singer Milo dropped to the ground mid-song. The guitarist straddled his body and forcefully rocked the crap out of his solo. The crowd of 35 IE Agents went absolutely nuts for this. Our energy continued to boast theirs while they boasted ours. An insane cycle of adrenaline!


Agent Jester wore a GOP shirt he made using the logo from their site


Agents Dippold and Montague (also wearing a GOP shirt) rock out!

GOP ended their show with a rocker. The guitar player threw his pick into the audience and the band quickly left the stage. It was very clear they did not expect to play an encore. It was also very clear that the IE Agents weren’t leaving with out one. A deafening chant of “One More Song!” broke out in the crowd. After a couple of minutes of the chant, GOP triumphantly returned to the stage and gave us what we wanted. The guitarist had to ask the lead singer for another guitar pic since he had thrown his only one away thinking they wouldn’t be coming back. The excitement was just too much for a few agents. They were so excited they simply had to take their shirts off!


Agent V hugs lead singer Milo as the gig ends

During the encore, Milo kneeled at the front of the stage and held his hands in front of him. Taking his cue, IE Agents swarmed him and touched his hands, worshipping him as a god. The guitarist moments later threw himself off the stage and into the crowd tackling one of his friends (one of the three non-IE Agents present). When the song came to an end, Agent V jumped up on the stage and hugged Milo telling him “Thank you” over and over again. Milo smiled and thanked us all, plugging the group’s website and upcoming NYC gig in November.


Agent Montague decorated his forehead with “Pasha”

When the gig ended, dummer Ezra Oklan came to the front of the stage to announce the band had free CDs (of their new ep) if anyone wanted some. The stack of CDs was gone in seconds. The IE Agents then quickly left the venue. No conversations with the band. No hanging around and buying drinks. We vanished as quickly as we had appeared and met back at Boss Tweed bar down the street.


Partial group photo

The night was an awesome time for both us and GOP. We turned a 3 person house into a room full of devout supporters. GOP made our job of “acting” like big fans very easy. They stepped up to the challenge and rocked it. We made no attempt to interact with them after the show or get their reaction. Sooner or later they’ll google themselves and find this site, and we look forward to hearing their side of the story when that happens. Hopefully this site will give the band a bit of publicity and maybe help them generate a real following. In the meantime we can only hope that we did in fact give them their best gig ever.

It surely will be better than the gig they have in NYC at the sin-e bar in a few weeks. Take a look at how the sin-e bar website lists the gig:

See you all at Glosta of Pasha!

AGENT REPORTS

Agent Wright
The gig began simply enough. IE Agents had been deployed at strategic points throughout the crowd–scratch that, we were the entire crowd–and excitement was in the air. We lustily applauded the band’s entrance, but kept a solid base of reality established. There was whooping between songs, clapping to the beat, the occasional scream of “Pashaaaaa!” But before too long, the intoxicating effects of Hot Rock Action had gone to our heads and things went a little batshit.

After the second number (and hometown fave) “New York, New York,” the crowd had worked itself to a fever pitch. Never mind the music–even the most meager attempts at between-song stage banter received a chorus of raucous roars. And the moment the band began honoring our requests for the two or three songs we knew from their website, the pogoing madness truly began in earnest. Mishmashed dance moves from all genres broke out all around me–moshing, air drumming, hippie shimmying, kung-fu chop-socky, booty-grinding, even a wildly careening round of chicken-fighting. It was like David Lee Roth was fronting The Beatles at Studio 54.
For their part, the band leaders fed off our energy and took their performance to the next level of ROCK. The dimunitive, bearded lead singer especially seemed to bask in the glory, maybe for the first time truly doing his best frontman impression. By the time he was writhing around on the ground with the mic stand while the guitarist ripped out a solo astride his face, I could’ve sworn I was watching David Bowie and Mick Ronson reenact their famously homoerotic moves.

Unfortunately, only half of the band seemed to totally buy into their hero’s welcome. The rhythm section seemed nonplussed if not overtly skeptical. Several times I had to avert my eyes from the suspicious glare of the drummer. To be fair, though, the bass player’s sullen demeanor may have been due to his upholding the traditional Bassist Oath of Stoicism.

No matter. When the band left the stage after their supposed last number, they all gladly returned for an encore as our collective chant of “ONE MORE SONG!” rattled the rafters. Apparently they didn’t even have any uptempo songs left. We didn’t care, though–we just ripped our shirts off and spazzed out to a grungy power ballad. As the last cymbal crashed, one particularly effusive super-fan leapt on stage to hug the lead singer. I couldn’t quite make it out in the rosy haze of the klieg lights, but he seemed to be mouthing, “Thank you, thank you.”

In that moment, I knew. Truly the gods of Rock Valhalla had lifted their golden goblets that night to toast a hearty “Skoal” to these mere mortals, and, with a little help from their IE friends, turned a quiet Sunday night gig into a hot, sweaty, transcendent Big Dumb Rock Show.

Agent Gill
As I walked into the venue, I was a little hesitant about the mission. The space was bigger than expected so I was worried about filling up the place. The moment when I knew the night would be a success, was when I couldn’t help but join in the crowd – clapping and dancing to the beat of the drum during their sound check! They all sort of looked at each other, no knowing what exactly was happening.

The lead singer, Milo, took to the stage singing his songs as normal. Between the first and second songs, the crowd started chanting…”PASHA…..PASHA!!!!” to which Milo chanted back in the mic “AUDIENCE….AUDIENCE….!!” followed by a laugh.

By the fourth or fifth song, Milo had his rock star moves down pat – with his two hands on the mic singing his lyrics through the hair in his face. The crowd loved it – moshing and jumping were almost involuntary as the guitarist ripped through the songs.

I think my favorite part of the set was when Milo laid down while the guitarist straddled over him – playing their instruments so passionately.

Milo became a bit more comfortable with the crowd – acting almost as if he was alone in his room, practicing in front of the mirror. I noticed some of his band members, laughing and shaking their heads as he got a bit wild with his singing and movements.

A few shirts came off in the crowd, followed by some interpretive dancing. One crowd member even jumped up on stage and hugged Milo out of pure joy.

At the end of their set, for some reason the guitarist did some sort of stage dive off the stage, into a crowd of like 4 people deep. Nobody caught him, exactly, it was more of a tumble with beer spilling everywhere. The rest of the band members were trying to make a quick exit off to the right, before the crowd stopped them by chanting, “ENCORE ….ENCORE! ONE MORE SONG….ONE MORE SONG!!!”

They looked pleased as they did one last song, to which Milo kneeled down to let the crowd touch his hand.

At the end of the last song, CD’s were handed out, and the crowd started fighting for them. Fists were pumping in a sort of celebration, for those who actually got a CD.

Agent Jester
I thought it was awesome to see how the lead singer (and the rest of the band, for the most part) got more and more into their own show based on our loud cheering and applause. The ultimate was getting them to do an encore. They definitely did not have one planned, as one of the guitarist’s foolishly threw his pick into the audience at the end of their last song. Sadly, I do not think they saw my custom made “GOP” t-shirt, but no matter. I’ll hold onto it until its worth millions, and then I’ll sell it on eBay.

Agent V
I was told that the idea behind this mission was that it should be the best gig ever, so I just approached it with that mindset. I just kept telling myself “This is so awesome! These guys are amazing!” My brain totally bought it and released a bunch of wacky chemicals into my bloodstream that allowed me to thrash around like I was having the time of my life. At one point Agent Lodwick and I executed our signature “guy on another guy’s shoulders” party maneuver, which got things pretty hyped up (at least for me).
There weren’t many secondary targets to see or hear reactions from. It was mainly just the IE squad, but the band really seemed to love the energy we were giving to them. Microphones were thrown, crotch-in-face guitar riffs were played, and it probably was indeed the best gig ever.

Agent Tuculescu
Last night was a blast. I really don’t think the band had any inkling that the crowd was staged. From what I saw they REALLY got into the cheering and chanting. At one point some of the people around me started chanting “G.O.P…G.O.P.” and the band leader started chanting back “audience….audience.” That was classic.

I especially enjoyed the part where the lead singer started writhing on the ground and the lead guitarist took the opportunity to straddle him and start soloing over him. That would never have happened without crowd encouragement. Good show!

Agent Ace$Thugg
Everyone was very jazzed from the get-go. By the second song, the whole audience was very Hare Krishna – a lot of repetitive dance movements and loud clapping. I believe it was the 4th song when an IE agent took the close-up photo of lead singer Milo with his camera phone and after that the audience and band seemed to step it up a notch.

I believe it was when the two IE agents where on each other’s shoulders in a chicken-fight pose that Milo and the guitarist got on the ground to rock out -and from that point on- they were fully invested in their performance, which in turn, got us more hyped.

I felt compelled to take off my shirt during the encore. This was only partly due to me being really hot from dancing all night, but mostly to pay homage to the band for doing an encore song…even though we all knew they had no songs left to sing.

Agent Montague
I’m still not sure what the band thought of us. There were moments of “This is an awesome crowd!” I remember one moment when Agent King shouted out a request for “Shut In”. One song later, Pasha answered the call. Maybe the lead singer was trying to tell us something with his encore, which repeated over and over again “You’ll never know what you’ve done to me.”

Agent Been
Last night, Ghosts of Pasha played a show of a lifetime.

Lead singer Milo Finch and the rest of the band seemed rather shy as they were warming up. Perhaps a little nervous that they were playing at the world famous Mercury Lounge for the first time. Little did they know that the Improv Everywhere agents, filling about half of the concert space, were dedicated not only to being entertained, but also to entertaining them. Cooperative Dynamics at work!

It took a couple songs for the band to realize that this NYC crowd was a great one. The people were bobbing and dancing to their songs, singing loudly to their lyrics, moshing even a bit. What flattery! But not dishonest flattery–hey, I was enjoying their music, and others were too. It was a great time for all.

Milo loosened up and connected with the audience the more we connected with him and the band. Supportive shouts of “G.O.P.! G.O.P.!” got him to smile. At one time, I started pounding my fist in the air chanting “PASHA! PASHA! PASHA!” and the whole crowd joined in. Milo was absorbing it all. I think the band was a little mesmerized. “Who the hell are we?” must have gone through each of the band member’s heads as they thought about themselves as a band. “We seem to be awesome.” “I’m just a guy, but it seems I’m a god,” must have been in Milo’s head.

Who wasn’t delighted by some of G.O.P.’s displays?! The memorable “Milo lies supine, Chris jams on guitar over top of him” was perhaps the biggest crowd pleaser, but getting to touch Milo’s hand when he approached the lip of the stage was pretty awesome for me, especially with all the other agent-fans swarming around him for their own coveted fondling of the lead singer. I remember the first time Milo got rowdy with his singing, suddenly slamming the mike to the ground. We all were thrilled by that sudden, rebellious emotional display from the seemingly stoic rocker.

After the band’s set was done, I gang rushed the stage to snag a set list. I gloated to a few other people in the crowd that I grabbed it, a rush similar to the times I’d fished They Might Be Giants set lists off the very same Mercury Lounge stage. I sadly learned later that it was the set list for another band that played earlier that night. Foiled!

We succeeded in bringing the band back up to play another song. Who knows whether it was a new song or old; many of us were trying to sing along. Later we had joyous conversations thinking about what must have gone through the drummer’s head when he saw us singing lyrics to songs they may have created only yesterday.

The lights came up and I evacuated, following Agent Todd. A mission that proved more exciting than I imagined. Ghosts of Pasha were great. Go see ‘em.

Agent Becket
I haven’t been to a concert in ages, so it took me a little while to get into the groove and start to move. Once I relaxed, I found the music really easy to jump around to and there were a lot of natural moments that were begging for some high-pitched “Whooooooo!”-ing, so I quickly relaxed into the role of eager, excited Ghosts of Pasha fan.

The band was pretty good, so I felt my reactions were honest (if a little exaggerated). I pogo-ed during the up-tempo songs and swayed and emoted during the slow ones. I applauded and screamed at the end of every song and went crazy whenever one of the band members said anything directed at the crowd. I was so into it that at one point someone (not an IE agent) asked me if I was going to talk to the band afterwards. I guess he assumed that if I was THAT into their music, I must be a friend. I said, “I don’t know. Why?” He then passed me a note and asked if I could give it to the guys because he had to leave early. I said yes, hoping it would give me a chance to chat up the band after the show. After their last song, G.O.P. quickly bolted from the stage, although the crowd had already begun calling for an encore. As the singer was making his way toward the back, I stopped him to give him the note.

“A friend of yours wanted me to give this to you guys.”

He just stared at me, confused, as the crowd chanted “One more song!”
“It’s a note, from your friend.”

“Huh?” The chanting became louder and more frenzied.

“It’s a note!” “One more song! One more song! One more song!”

“What are you saying?”

“A friend of you guys … he wanted me to give you this NOTE! He had to leave early! It’s from your FRIEND!”
As one of the other dudes pulled him back on stage, he took the note, still looking a little dazed at everything that was going on. They played their impromptu encore and the crowd quickly dispersed. I hope that, even if the band didn’t believe we were genuine G.O.P. fans, they at least appreciated our efforts and took our exuberance and support as something positive. After all, while their “real” friend left early, we stayed and danced and cheered and called for encores. We got nothin’ but love for you, G.O.P. Nothin’ but love.

Agent Leonard
The band was doing their thing, and I could tell they were feeling the excitement from the crowd, then at about the third song, they started ROCKING OUT!!!!! Mic stand was thrown, sweat flying, hair everywhere, rockstar facial expressions!!!! It was awesome!!!

At one point someone kind of landed on me and I was shoved really hard, when I looked up, the guitar player was climbing back onto the stage; he must have thrown himself off the stage in a fit of Rock `N’ Roll passion!!!

Audience: “G.O.P.! G.O.P.! G.O.P.! G.O.P.! G.O.P.!”

Lead singer: “Yeah, We’re G.O.P., the good kind!!!!”

Audience: “Wooooh!!! YEAH!! Alright!!!!!”

Agent Marhekifson
Well, I don’t know if we gave Ghosts Of Pasha their Best Gig Ever, but we certainly gave them their weirdest gig ever…with shirtless moshers and painted faces and over-the-top rawk antics.

Agent King
Things I noticed:

  1. Drummer very suspicious of Agent Kula’s filming.

  2. Guitar player throwing his pic into the crowd and then needing to borrow one from the lead singer for the encore.
  3. Lead singer totally rocked it out.

Agent Fite
I feel we really rocked out with our cocks out. We came, we saw, we moshed. My neck was definitely sore the next day from head banging, which I haven’t done since middle school. The free CD was an exciting bonus. Who knows G.O.P. might be the next band to change the face of rock.

Agent Godwin
Agent Nawrocki and I went straight to Mercury Lounge, arriving at about 10:15. The place was pretty low key, so we each purchased a beverage and then went into the back room. GOP was just beginning to set up and the scene was pretty dead. Then shortly before the band went on more people started to file in. Agent Nawrocki and I took our places, falling into the role of “girls who are feeling the band’s music so much, that they dance at the front of the stage with their eyes closed.” This being said, I didn’t get to see much of what was going on behind us or, hell, even in front of us. But I did see the confused look that passed between some of the band members when they first saw the group of eager onlookers cheering for them. More of these confused looks were exchanged every time they started a new song–and immediately met joyous yells of approval from their devoted fans. By the time they launched into New York, New York, everyone was energized and dancing.

At one point, a woman with “Pasha” tattooed on her back ran to the front and started rocking out with two other guys who were grooving like madmen. The only part of the night that was a little scary was when an IE Agent next to us took off his shirt and started jumping around, even bumping into me at one point. Having a half-naked, sweating dude smack into me normally would have been annoying. But this night was different, special. This was Pasha. How could I possibly be annoyed by a superfan just rocking out like I was?

At the end of the set I ran to the stage and was rewarded with a free CD. By the time I gathered my coat and bag, the band was off stage and the room had cleared. Agent Nawrocki and I went out to the bar area and heard the woman who collected the money at the door and the bartender talking.

“That was so weird!” the money collector said. “I mean, they all just left.”

“Totally strange. Did they carpool together or something?” the bartender asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t think they knew each other. It’s just so weird. I can’t get over how they all just disappeared.”
Upon hearing this exchange, Agent Nawrocki and I made our exit. As we walked toward the subway, we saw a group of four guys standing outside smoking cigarettes. When we realized that they were no ordinary guys, but instead the members of GOP, we yelled, “Great show!” With looks of confusion and amusement on their faces, they said, “Thanks.” I held up my CD and yelled back, “And thanks for the CD.” On the surface, the guys seemed almost freaked out by my eagerness at seeing them on the street. But deep inside I know they really loved us. Possibly feared us. But loved us.

Mission Accomplished.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

This mission was featured in:
RollingStone.com
Spin Magazine

EPILOGUE:

The members of Ghosts of Pasha sent in their own agent reports a few days after someone forwarded them a link to our site. Read it here: Best Gig Ever – Band Response

The remaining two members of Ghosts of Pasha play the IE 5th Anniversary Show nearly two years after this mission:

If this is your first time here:
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69 Responses to Best Gig Ever

  1. Luna says:

    I live in Seattle and I have a very large extended family, probably fifty or so people. I told them about this mission & they thought it was brilliant. We’re planning to copy it for a small band I know, it should be great.

  2. Raz says:

    Hmm… I like the general idea of this, but I do think that everyone would have been that much happier if it had been structured as rocking with a band without enough recognition (rather than the negative slant given to GoP). Then the vibe could have been more "They loved us enough to prank us," rather than the "We thought they loved us but they were really pranking" mesage actually given here. It had to have been disheartening at first. But the overall idea is excellent. It’s just a matter of words.

  3. AGENT BUB says:

    I never grow tired of endless laughing. This site makes me tickle with tears. Educated pranks with the goal of everyone getting out ok and safe is what comedy is all about. To the naysayers I say this: you try to pull something like this off and see how long the memory lingers and how much freakin fun you had. Best Buy was my Fav, cause it was my first. I tell everyone about it and send the website all over the world. Next up, I am going to send money for the advancement of this team. Why not? Its all good, its all fun!
    Phoenix Rocks!

  4. just little ole me says:

    I like the band. Too bad this is how I had to hear about them. Brings me some sense of relief, knowing that IE wasn’t around during the early days of The Smiths, Radiohead or The Roots. My appreciation could have been diminished by these irrelevant distractions.There’s also the question as to whether the band was initially wishing for any publicity (good or bad), seeing as IE and some of it’s fans state that they did the guys some great favor. Is IE really the causer of such “chaos” and “joy”? And isn’t what’s in, “reality”? I might have been more interested in seeing the band’s real reaction to some post-prank honesty from IE, rather than finding out later after some web search. I guess it’s just hard for me to keep up with all of these trends.I don’t know… maybe it’s just that I’m not enlightened enough or that my sense of humor has gone stale? Maybe I just like my day job, family and life enough, that little flagellation and exaltation are required to appreciate the “mission” (mission |ˈmi sh É™n|: an important assignment)? Hey. isn’t that from FIGHT CLUB? Maybe it’s just little ole me?

  5. SMC says:

    I’m a little late on the game, but I just saw your site and the showtime documentary that included this “prank”. It is too bad that their feelings were hurt when they 1st found out. It is horrible that the public and media would take it as an opportunity to poke fun at them. The intention was great, the intention was no different than giving a gift. If you gave a wacky carnival mirror to some one as a gift and for a week the proceeded through life with a boost in self esteem because the person thought themself to be thinner, taller, have more hair, etc. If at the end of the week you told him/her about the mirror the lesson would be the same as this one. If you think your self esteem is lifted you tend to feel happier and have better things happen. A lot of our personal experiences are directly related to our self esteem. Much like the band and their concert. Because of the audience enthusiasm they played their best concert in addition to the uplifted spirits at having a large involved audience. According to the interviews on Showtime after a little time had passed they were grateful for the experience. Anyone would be initially upset if they felt they had been the butt of a prank, which was not what happened hear. After the poor media slant died down they realized it was a prank but they were more like the recipients of a gift than the butt of a joke.

    my two cents.

  6. Worried about the Consequences says:

    Wow. I saw the TAL segment and then looked around the site here at the various “missions,” and I have to say that you folks scare the crap out of me. I know your missions don’t always involve making fun of people like this “best gig ever” one did, but they do often try to make people uncomfortable in public and to disrupt their lives in a way that those people might very well think, at the time or even later, is pretty damn unsettling or even frightening. For me, your understanding of “fun” as coming at the expense of other people’s discomfort is the same view of fun as celebrated by fans of Borat (so what if a few good people get humiliated along with the bad, if we all get a laugh), by the people who love the pranks of the “Amazing Racist” or the skits in Jackass where they try to offend random people on the street or those in Punkd where the victims are not so random. Somewhere along the line in our culture it became ok to publicly humiliate or frighten or unsettle or “fake offend” people in the name of “fun.” At some point we decided it was acceptable to ignore the genuine emotional reaction of the victim of a prank (on purpose, as part of the prank, and even if they are visibly upset, because you aren’t allowed to break character), despite the fact that denying them this empathy fundamentally disrespects and dehumanizes them, by definition. And yes, I say you dehumanized the GOP guys by treating them as your toys without telling them—even if some of them later came around to appreciate the emotional rollercoaster you forced them to ride—and yes, you disrespected the Best Buy employee whose underpaid job it is to keep the store safe for customers or the manager who is a human too (some of the comments on that page indicate this disrespect for what they had to go through). I fear that this way of understanding fun as requiring that “innocent” bystanders be made uncomfortable, or even be made fun of, is leading to a very dark place for us. Will it soon be ok to just say whatever you want in public, to whomever you want, so long as later if by chance you are called out on it (e.g., if your victim finds the website where you describe how you totally pranked them and they totally didn’t know it) you just say “hey, we were just kidding dude.” Where will that lead? I hate to sound so dramatic, because I know such cultural ruin is not what you intend (though I do think you are less than truthful if you say your pranks do not result in humiliation in some cases—e.g., for the mentally handicapped Yankees fan who has to hear the “Rob is Retarded” chant). But I have to say that such a world—where emotional discomfort=fun and where saying anything you want regardless of how others might react emotionally, so long as it is just “in fun”—would be a world in which true racists will flourish, a world in which bullies who want to humiliate for more than fun will be allowed to do so because we won’t be able to tell if they are serious or not until it is too late. (I think the reactions of the idiots who jumped on the humiliation bandwagon to ridicule GOP after this gig prank is, unfortunately, evidence that this is where such “fun” will lead.) I say respect people’s basic dignity as humans when you set out to have fun. I applaud your attempts to make fun FOR people, but not when you make fun OF people. We can have free speech and have fun without doing so explicitly at the expense of people just trying to live their sometimes very tough lives. You might make some people smile, but what about the others who suffer different consequences from your fun? The evidence is all over these pages that those people exist. Is it worth it?

  7. Lindsey says:

    You’ve missed the point of this group entirely.

    This prank definitely wasn’t making fun of this band–the point was that it gave them an amazing show, and the added bonus was that they got some fantastic publicity. I for one would never have heard of GOP if IE hadn’t pranked them–they have a big fanbase here in the city now. The band didn’t mind the prank and are friends with IE now, so I don’t see why you take such great offense to it.

    I will admit that the “Rob’s Retarded” chant was un-PC, but I blame a society where that particular insult is accepted as part of our culture. If it we had made it as offensive to throw that word around as it is to throw the N-word around, you can bet that the IE agents wouldn’t have been shouting it. Because the point of these pranks are not to be offensive or demeaning to people. What I’ve always loved about IE is that the pranks give people an interesting story, something to get excited about. A lot of the pranks are performance-based, and involve a sort of guerilla theatre (like the jumper prank). The agents aren’t laughing at the people that see the pranks; they’re letting their audience laugh at them. And take away a fun story to tell their friends.

    I am more worried about the consequences of deciding not to do something fun and exciting with and for others because you might impact other people. Our society has gotten further and further away from any sense of community, as technology gives us more and more reason to isolate ourselves. When I participate in an IE prank, it gives me a chance to interact with strangers! It gives me a chance to have a random laugh with someone I’ve never seen before and probably won’t ever see again–a tiny connection with another person. And I’m not talking about the agents. I’m talking about the person in Central Park who passes me on their skateboard and grins as I’m jumping on one foot with the rest of the MP3 Experiment participants.

    I think Charlie is constantly thinking about whether his pranks will be harmful or upsetting to anyone. He’s not taking that lightly. But objecting to the existence of an entire well-meaning group because of a nebulous fear that maybe someone will be upset is ludicrous. That only leads to censorship.

  8. Worried about the Consequences says:

    I know that making fun of people or being demeaning or causing offense is not the intention, but it is sometimes the result. And I guess I do think those people who will be upset should give you pause. That’s a self-censorship I can live with, just like not screaming the N-word walking down the street (in the name of performance) is a self-censorship I can live with.

    As for the argument often made here that GOP only had positive consequences from this and that their responses posted here are the final statement proving that, I would refer you to what they say in the TAL segment about how they felt when they first found out (anger, paranoia), and to Chris Partyka’s myspace blog, where he chronicles other darker consequences for him and and the band. I say IE should be concerned about causing people such trauma, even if they eventually come out ok on the other end as IE supporters. What about the next person who doesn’t get over it in the same way?

  9. It all works out says:

    Well simply, they need to relax, maybe even lighten up. too many people today are so mechanical, routine, and bland. if you even saw the show, the final question will nullify any questions you have towards GOP. As for future skits?, and if the reaction is too much? well im sure in the time that comes you can think of something good for them then.

  10. David Also says:

    It would seem that we can all agree that people got hurt. Let’s also agree that there is a line dividing those who think a “target” deserves empathy and those who think an offended “subject” needs to lighten up and be grateful for the experience. Concrete arguments have been made on both sides. A few people on each side have even adopted extreme and unlikely justifications for their opinions. But since the power here is with Improv Everywhere, that’s where my criticism is aimed.

    There is a special kind of lie coming from the leaders and members of IE. This American Life documents Todd saying that if the intentions were good then the only fair judgment is that the end result is good. In other words, the means justifies the ends.

    Being audacious and aggressive does not mean that you are automatically absolved of responsibility when people are hurt in unforeseen ways. If anything, it shows your own lack of foresight. The world is pock-marked with examples of people who demand that because they’re being innovative then the rest of the world needs to fall in line with their ideas. There are many people who believe that the US went into Iraq with good intentions. Does that mean that the overall result, no matter what it may be, is good?

    To those who would think that having had one amazing night justifies this mission, consider the weeks of doubt and regret which plagued the band members with each triggered memory of that night. It doesn’t quite seem so amazing any more, does it? What good is a gift which, while enjoyable in the moment, turns out to be a long-term emotional vice grip?

    I applaud the efforts of IE in trying to wake people out of their tedium. It is a wonderful idea. To that end, therefore, it may serve the group’s mission to admit when things maybe didn’t turn out as well as they would have liked. What you do is remarkable. It could be even better if you remain humble and learn from your mistakes.

  11. YC says:

    I agree 100% with the criticisms to Improve Everywhere. They have some excellent acts, but have little to no sense of responsibility towards the consequences of their actions.

  12. sarah says:

    ghosts of pasha : 4 gigs and a life lesson

    charlie todd and I.E. : upcoming NBC tv show

  13. yael says:

    Why didn’t you pick on a band of overconfident douche bags instead of these guys?

  14. martylunde says:

    Wouldn’t you be completely suspicious of a packed room of over the top, adoring fans during your third show when you don’t even have a record out? Having been a struggling musician myself, I would have stopped the show and asked these people to stop taking the piss. I absolutely would NOT have simply gone along with it and I certainly would not have believed it. How deluded would you have to be to fall for this kind of prank?

  15. Vitriolik says:

    Guess this is old news, but I just heard about it on This American Life.

    Anyway, my first thought when the story was introduced was “Man, how are these guys going to feel when they inevitably learn the truth about the gig?” Did the potential to humiliate these guys never occur to anyone planning this? I’m sure it was conceived with good intentions, but these were just a few sincere guys who wanted to go out and play for their handful of fans. Finding the nerve to stand up in front of a dozen people and rock out for them is something that most of us could never do. You guys basically hijacked their show and made it your own performance.

    And your leader didn’t even seem apologetic in the least? I say shame on you all.

  16. pyramus says:

    I’m honestly baffled by the people who think this stunt was mean or cruel. If it hadn’t been done, Ghosts of Pasha would have either played to three people or packed up and gone home–both depressing, dispiriting experiences. Instead, they played what sounds like a killer set to a roomful of enthusiastic people who clearly–even if it wasn’t the stated intention of the stunt–enjoyed themselves. How can that possibly be a bad thing?

    Yes, they discovered later that they’d been pranked, and yes, it made them figures of fun. I’m sure it was initially embarrassing and upsetting. Those emotions pass. They got a ton of free publicity and they had an experience that, in all likelihood, they never otherwise would have had the chance to have. That’s win-win in my book.

  17. Joe says:

    I simply love this one. I am reading it for the third time and still enjoying it. The only feedback that I have is that if you all went to their website to download the mp3, they would see the site stats and likely think that there is a little bit of a following in NYC. I would think that they may have had an idea that there would be some people wanting to see the concert.

  18. rasesh says:

    amazing work u did……keep it up…….what an awesome feeling they might have had that night when they sat after their “SMALL GIG”……….

  19. dude guy says:

    you guys rock!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and so does ghost of pasha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!wicked!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!rock hard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. dude guy says:

    people who make fun of this band are stupid and have no life and just pick on people.