The first time I saw Karen O perform was in San Diego in 2004. Fever To Tell, the debut album from her band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, had dropped the year before, and she was onstage, caught in her microphone cable. Writhing on the floor, she screamed the lyrics to the record’s biggest hits, “Date with the Night,” “Y Control” and “Maps,” songs that over the previous year had taken the band from grimy college punk rockers to indie superstars, with Karen as their bowl cut-rocking frontwoman.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, along with bands like The White Stripes and The Strokes, were heralded in the early aughts as the latest saviors of rock ‘n’ roll, hoisting leather, louche haircuts, sex and guitars back up the charts, which, for the previous few years, had been overrun with boy bands and virginal pop singers. And there was Karen. Center stage, rolling on the ground, covered in beer.