By Shereen Siewert
It was hard to know just what to expect on Thursday, when The OK Factor took the stage at Wausau’s Grand Theater, based on pre-performance publicity alone. Part of The Grand’s 10×10 series, which has been woefully ill-attended despite spectacular performances by upcoming artists, the performers’ style was described only as “classical crossover” with influences in Americana and Irish/Gaelic fiddle styles.
That didn’t tell me much, but for $10 in advance or $15 at the door, I figured it was worth checking out. (To clarify, though, that $10 advance price is jacked up to $20 if you buy a ticket online, since there is a $10 per-transaction fee tacked on. To get $10 tickets, you need to physically visit the PAF Box Office at 401 N. Fourth St. between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.)
Unlike past 10×10 performances, in which the audience was allowed to wander through the gorgeous theater and enjoy drinks from an in-theater bar, this duo performed in front of an on-stage audience. Staff at The Grand set up a bar, a smattering of pub style tables, and about 150 chairs on stage for ticket holders, creating a unique and cozy club-style experience.
When they took the stage, Olivia Diercks and Karla Dietmeyer, cellist and violinist of The OK Factor, put on a splendid blend of original and popular selections, ranging from Beatles tunes to Scottish jigs. The two straddle the line between jazz, pop and classical, and the result is pure magic. It was a pleasant surprise, and well worth the price of admission, even if I went in with only a vague notion of what I’d be hearing. (The Wausau Daily Herald’s preview, published March 7, promised a night of “original classical music,” which turned out not to be the case at all.)
The Minneapolis-based duo is exceptionally talented and the two write much of their own material. I was so relaxed by the end of the performance, I didn’t want to leave. In fact, I enjoyed the music so much that I bought a CD on my way out the door.
Though the on-stage audience idea was a good one, the setup did have a disappointing impact on the overall sound. Anyone who has ever performed at The Grand knows the theater has incredible acoustics, at least when playing out to the crowd. But the stage itself is hampered by heavy velvet curtains that tend to soak up the sound, which made it nearly impossible to hear the artists speak in between each piece and muddied the music, just a bit. The sound guy there knows his stuff, don’t get me wrong, but the logistics of playing to the back of the stage are challenging at best.
The Grand’s 10×10 series continues on April 21 with a rescheduled show from The Quiet Hollers, which is described as an alt-country, indie group. It’s possible that not enough people even know about the show, though, which I had to dig to find information about on The Grand’s website. If you’re a Jason Isbell or Drive By Truckers fan, you’ll probably love this show. Besides, for $10, what’s not to love?