A Night Out Loud: O.A.R., Hest, and the Sixers start a revolution at Purdue
04/04/2005 at 10:00 AM EST
On an uncharacteristically crisp spring night, devoid of the usual stumbling and crawling patrons of local bars and the general numbing stupor of most Purdue students on such a Thursday night, those in attendance on the 31st of March, were only held thirsty for the reggae madness, ska infusion and other audible stimuli which could only be conjured by the likes of O.A.R.. The weather was fitting at Purdue University as Mark Roberge, Chris Culos, Richard On, Jerry Depizzo and Benj Gershman transported a concert hall full of not only students, but families, to a fantastic Caribbean escape.
Among songs such as “Mr. Moon” and “Hey Girl,” O.A.R. graced its audience with some new material as well as some songs from a few of their less-recent albums. However, the previous sentence fails to mention or capture the raw emotional energy of their live performance or the intricacies of each clever solo built by guitarist Richard On and sax player Jerry Depizzo.
The dynamic lighting design cast manipulated figures in larger than life form, coating the very walls which reverberated the explosive symphony of buoyant tones thrown out into space from the well spread stage, each member showcased in his own bath of complimenting spectral emphasis. In a wide array of impressions and demeanors sprayed across the crowd, a good portion of the bodies arriving in a businesslike rigor, as the night wore on, slipped into a trusting coalescence drawing more faces to fill the aisles near the stage turning what was in danger of resembling an oxymoronic night at Carnegie Hall into a concert ringing true to its nature.
Police Officers dropped their donuts and began marching down the aisles to keep a watchful eye on the would-be mosh pit that had converged in the front of the hall. What the boys in blue didn’t happen upon right away, was the peaceful ambience and typically laid-back attitude of the students in attendance that evening. The only struggle that broke out that evening was the inner conflict of each listener enduring bouts of sonically perfect tension, which were later complimented and resolved by flighty guitar work and contoured melody lines from Depizzo.
The measure of the evening was only overcome by an epic jam session, in which Ari Hest, Stephen Kellogg and O.A.R. combined their harmonious powers in the presentation of two cover songs. An anthem rang out as Mark belted; “I pulled into Nazareth…”, (a song by The Band), and later, in triumph, shaking off the ovation, The super group began to convey the verse chords of “Piano Man,” by Billy Joel, an unexpected hand in the crazy game of poker that was the concert that night. The atmosphere was slightly sedated, raw, and possibly a bit grounded as the audience transcended their seats and each band’s performance was a little more “alive” as opposed to, simply live.
Despite numerous efforts by the audience to pigeonhole Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, each set of ears was met only by failure, and what sweet failure it was, for, this band successfully fused rock, pop, acoustic jam and elements of reggae in a shower of tonal sparks and free-falling jaws. One facet of the dynamic conversation between the band and the audience had to do with some clever choreography; the other revolves around a spectacular stage presence and the incorporation of lines from many other popular songsinto the live mix, (which were met with applause and sincere laughter). If O.A.R. could be characterized as Reel Big Fish meets Bob Marley and the Wailers, and Ari Hest as the new Dylan Disciple, then the Sixers can certainly be related to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, in that, through constant reinvention and uncharted diversity, they can never be classified.
The explosively energetic and dynamic performance of Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, left the receiving audience with plenty of dialogue to unload amongst themselves, and so they did. However after a relaxing interval with people still milling about and their minds very much in an interwoven state; the aire was positively shattered by the crescendo of an all encompassing drawn out lyric of Alleluia. At the culmination of genesis note, not an eye wavered from the source of the skin-rippling falsetto of Ari Hest, nor an ear from the throaty accompaniment of his twelve-string guitar. Laid in between the classic belts of the repetition of Alleluia were comprehended thoughtful lines of contemporary introspection as a single light bathed the performer in his solitude and solidified his presence upon the stage in the minds of the recipients. That same presence however transcended that of his band who would join him for the remainder of his anchoring opening performance, who while supporting the weight of Hest’s culpable guitar skills with both six and twelve string applications perhaps because of his far more superior voice fell a bit short of a copasetic relationship with his lyrics and inclusion of pop culture, dripping with urban tone and a deep appreciation of his peers and gods.
It was as a dream, except that, despite the numerous dilated pupils, the audience was lucid, responsive and quite willing to show their appreciation for the experience by clapping to the backbeat and flooding to the front of the hall. After an encore, there was much rejoicing as Purdue students cast themselves into the open night air so that they might go about their business in awe of the past three hours, which held so much hope and insight but at the same time, innately projected gratification.
-Jim Durett contributed to the article.
This concert review was written by Peter Burke, co-founder of Musiqtone and the chief head of Yellow Brick Records. You can reach Peter at his e-mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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