There are many a musical outfit that have come and gone over the span of twenty years. Whether it be due to creative differences, personal feuding, or otherwise, there are a thousand reasons why bands do not make it to such a milestone. Thankfully for the collective Of A Revolution, better known as O.A.R., they are still going strong twenty years later.
Recognized as Alternative Rock jam band heros, they not only have a seamless history as a cohesive unit, but also have a solid track record with fans. That in mind, O.A.R. has built a relationship with their audience that many bands can only dream of. So much so, in the summer of 2016, they embarked on the self-explanatory You Pick the Set Tour, celebrating their 20th anniversary and double-album compliation, XX.
A successful run that found them stopping in cities all over the USA, O.A.R. return to the East Coast in December of 2016 for the four-night The XXmas Wish Tour, bringing a little holiday cheer to the Tri-State New York area. With the concise tour on its last night, the fourth show took to The Paramount in Huntington, New York on Friday, December 30th, for a night of festive fun surely to please all jam band enthusiasts.
The second of two shows at The Paramount, on a chilly midwinter night, just days before the start of 2017, downtown Huntington was full of holiday glow as fans shuffled into the venue. Welcomed by Taylor Carson, the opening support was an energetic Acoustic Rock act from Arlington, VA. Bringing a soft ambiance to the venue, the band consisting of Taylor Carson (guitar/vocals) along with backing band Mark Williams (guitar), Patrick Thornton (bass/vocals), and Jamie Watkins (drums) offered an uplifting, dynamic take on the genre.
From humble beginnings in the bars of DC and New York, Carson has come to share stages nationwide with big names such as Eric Hutchinson, John Hiatt, Mark Roberge (of O.A.R.), and even President Bill Clinton. In addition, his music has been featured in the award-winning Documentary, Dog Days, and by The Red Cross. Carson’s sixth studio album, Go Amaze, is the singer-songwriter’s first studio album in ten years, and he was ready to show it off to the Long Island crowd.
Taking the stage with confidence, he strutted to the center of the platform while basked in purple hues. Playing in complete harmony, the band continued with the debut performance of “I Believe in You,” a bittersweet dedication song to his daughter Arlymae. Throughout the set, Carson strummed away at his acoustic guitar melancholically, emitting self-reflective lyrics through songs like “Wait for Me” and “Home.” The crowd eagerly clapped along to the infectious rhythms while anticipating the headliners. As promised, Carson was spotted later at the merchandise stand signing records. Fans of Acoustic Rock and Folk alike can be sure to enjoy Carson’s unique blend of the genres. Humble and optimistic, Carson is undoubtedly on his way to topping charts.
With the stage now reflecting the letters O.A.R. in the backdrop, the main attraction was ready to kick off. The energy was flowing immediately, as the band commenced with the Reggae-inspired “Wonderful Day.” The much-awaited for “Shattered (Turn the Car Around)” and “Two Hands Up” saw scores singing and dancing along. Continuing on, the outfit added a dedication of “Love and Memories” to a fallen friend, while later diving into “Missing Pieces” and “Peace,” where both touring musicians took turns in the spotlight on their respective brass instruments to everyone’s delight.
In the beginning of the set, the band, comprised of Marc Roberge (vocals/guitar), Richard On (guitar), Benj Gershman (bass), Chris Culos (percussion), Jerry DePizzo (saxophone/guitar), Mikel Paris (keys/percussion), and Jon Lampley (trumpet), felt electrified by the audience’s enthusiasm as they took to the stage. However, even as the night progressed, the New York fans proved their devotion to O.A.R. even further by singing along to all the hits and rarities alike.
The more popular tracks naturally received more attention and focus from the audience with the likes of “Love And Memories,” “Shattered (Turn The Car Around),” “This Town,” and “Heaven,” all which created a certain sense of camaraderie between the crowd members. In reaction, many audience members were dancing with strangers, screaming back lyrics, and creating hand and arm movements to go along with the words.
Wonderfully balanced, the set focused on older tunes as compared to past tours, including “Night Shift,” “If She Only Knew,” “So Moved On,” “About Mr. Brown,” “About An Hour Ago,” and their first single, “Hey Girl.” Joining the regular members of O.A.R. were touring members such as Mikel Paris (keyboards) and Jon Lampley (trumpet, saxophone), both of who showcased their obvious talent to the crowd throughout the performance. During the latter half of the set, when playing “City on Down,” Lampley left his position to take the spotlight, dazzling the crowd with a jaw-dropping solo.
Although, a true highlight of the night was not simply in one song, but in the overall cohesion of the set. Each musician onstage worked in such unity with one another, infusing a specialization in Reggae, Rock, and Jazz improv. In addition, they did a phenomenal job of engaging the audience for a good chunk of time as songs got broken down before they concluded with a final chorus in traditional jam band fashion.
Keeping the night diverse, slower and more romantic tunes such as “We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off,” “Peace,” “Place To Hide,” and new piece “Can’t Take It With You.” With plenty of older material to memorize, the newer song added a flavor to the palette of old O.A.R. fans, allowing them to indulge fresh melodies and lyrics. The said song slowly built melodically, as Roberge started simply by playing the acoustic guitar with little assistance from Pulos. After the completion of the first chorus, the full band joined in, but all while restraining from overpowering the lead vocals.
While having rocked arenas such as Madison Square Garden, it is refreshing to watch larger-known bands such as O.A.R. play more quaint venues like The Paramount. Made up of men who have been dreaming of playing their music to those who appreciate it since they were in eighth grade, it is evident in the emotion they bring to their performances. Twenty years since their official formation as a band, their loyal, passionate, and diverse fan base stretching generations are looking forward to many more years to come with the beloved O.A.R.Photo credit: Mark Schoen Photography