Guest Post – On Going to an O.A.R. Concert in 2016

My buddy Josh went to an OAR concert recently and wrote the following. As someone who went to an OAR concert in 2014, I can confirm this is pretty much accurate. 

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If I had told you that O.A.R. was still on tour, in 2016, I would imagine your first response would be either, “What’s O.A.R.?” or “Seriously? Who still listens to O.A.R.?”

That first question is far easier to answer – O.A.R. is, for all intents and purposes, a pretty standard college alt-rock band whose popularity peaked in the mid-aughts, and had a few radio-friendly jams that were surprisingly good and very catchy for the moment. I say this with (possibly) very rose-tinted glasses, since I was in high school when O.A.R. first got big and that was also right when I started really paving my own path with music discovery (in contrast with the old Madonna, Springsteen and Billy Joel CDs that inhabit every millennial’s parents’ car and household). That being said, these guys once sold out MSG; ten years ago, mind you, but that sort of thing speaks for itself and needs no further defense.

The second question (“Who still listens to O.A.R.?”) is actually a tough one to answer, because the answer could easily be “anyone and everyone.” My buddy Jared asked me and our friend Mark to go to the concert (Jared bought four tickets, for the three of us and his wife) and Mark and I basically shrugged and said, “Why not, it’s live music.” On a warm August night in Brooklyn, the same night and barely a stone’s throw from the Mad Decent Block Party, a good 3,000-plus people packed into the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island (a brand-new venue whose history, like everything in New York, is rife with scandal and controversy) to see what could have been five dudes from your high school (or college) keep living their dream. In doing some research while literally writing this, it turns out that their last album, which was released in 2014, debuted (debuted!) at #13 on the Billboard Hot 200, which is pretty impressive in its own right.

Clearly, I’d be lying if I said I had been a big fan of O.A.R. at any point in my life, and my experience with them is mostly limited to their 2005 album Stories of a Stranger (again, what I found for myself in high school,) and everything my buddy Jared put on in his car when we road tripped out to Ann Arbor for our junior and senior years. But it’d be rude to not acknowledge that they put on a hell of a show. They’ve got a pretty deep discography at this point (as any band who’s been putting out full albums for 20 years should) and I might know 4 or 5 songs, but I do have to commend the band on the ability to segue between their bigger songs (stuff people like me would recognize) and stuff that they play because they like the song, and screw you if it’s not one of your personal favorites. It also helped that Jared is clearly a huge fan, and knew just about every song they played. So that made things easier.

Of course, any time you come on stage to Prince saying “Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today…” and purple lights offered in tribute, you know you’re setting a high bar for yourself (I often imagine myself walking into the office doing this exact routine, RIP Prince.) But O.A.R. held their own, through and through. And let’s be clear, the band is never going to draw comparisons to the legends of their craft (be it Led Zeppelin, the Dead or anyone else who serves as a hallmark for a genre) but this is clearly what they live to do, and it shows. The show-stealer, though, was the guest musician, Jon Lampley, and I’m including a link to his personal website because I would implore you to try to catch this guy live at some point (whether he’s performing with O.A.R. or doing his own thing.) I’ve seen a lot of live music in my day, across the entire musical spectrum (Monday night at the Village Vanguard through a Saturday night at Barclays Center to see Queens of the Stone Age) and Jon Lampley is one of the most impressive trumpeters I’ve ever seen (and tuba players! Holy shit I can’t remember the last time I saw a tuba at a rock concert but this dude CRUSHED IT).

Anyway, that’s how (and probably why) so many people spanning so many demographics showed up – the guys from O.A.R. could have been those guys everyone got along with in your high school history class or Psych 101 lecture – whether that was in the 90s, 00s, or even in the past three years, and that’s also why I was so caught off-guard when I found out that this was their 20th anniversary tour. It also caught me off-guard that the same night Diplo was pushing buttons on a laptop maybe a quarter mile away, there were still thousands of teenagers and 20-somethings at this concert, seeing real live music. And as someone whose EDM and festival days are long since gone, that gives me hope for the future. And, weirdly, warm memories of the past.