Sunday, August 10, 2003

Reggae thrives in the Midwest

311, O.A.R, keep crowd hopping

By Chris Varias
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Straight from the Jamaican-music hotbeds of Omaha, Neb., and Columbus, Ohio, came Riverbend's Saturday lineup featuring 311 and O.A.R., each of whom had the crowd moving to its personalized take on reggae.

Columbus' O.A.R. has enjoyed a solid regional fan base for the last few years. The band went on second, following the 30-minute set of ordinary pop-punk turned in by openers Something Corporate.

Audience reaction to O.A.R. was so glowing that it seemed headliners 311 would have trouble winning the crowd away from its home-state favorites.

But the Nebraskans took to the stage with extreme force, and from the first song to the last the energy level of their performance was a few notches higher than what immediately preceded them.

311 are simply the louder, faster, harder band. The group blends reggae rhythms and dancehall rapping into a mix of hip-hop and Red Hot Chili Peppers-style funk and thrash, whereas O.A.R. simply peppers its folk-rock and jam sound with a bit of reggae upbeat and the occasional fake Jamaican singing accent.

For an hour and 45 minutes, 311 vocalists Nick Hexum and S.A. Martinez maintained a constant flow of toasting, rapping and singing. At the same time the pair bounced all over the stage, spurring the crowd to hop and dance along for most of the show.

Meanwhile, guitarist Tim Mahoney, bassist P-Nut and drummer Chad Sexton propelled the bouncy rhythms, with occasional assistance from Hexum on guitar and Martinez on turntables.

Favorites like "Down" and "Feels So Good" embodied the fast tempo and funkiness of most of the show, so much so that anything at all different - like the straight-rock new one "Still Dreaming" and the slow new one "Beyond the Gray Sky" - made itself noticed.

The day O.A.R. headlines Riverbend probably isn't that far away. It appeared as if each person in the pavilion knew every song, if not every lyric.

The five-man band, who were joined by guest keyboardist Gabe Dixon, eased through 70 minutes of cheery reggae rock. The performance peaked with a rendition of the Of A Revolution signature tune "That Was a Crazy Game of Poker."


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