On Wednesday night around 7 p.m., Churchill Downs caught the funk.
Of A Revolution, or O.A.R, played about a two-hour set Wednesday night. The majority of the crowd drank pale ales and wore pookah shell necklaces. They sang along to songs other than “Shattered,” and “That Crazy Game of Poker,” early 2000 hits for the band O.A.R.
Since their debut in 1997, the light reggae rock group has maintained a consistent sound for nearly 20 years. Their seniority in the music scene may be the only thing keeping the band on tour. This cult jam band’s performance style is much like their garage band roots. The name of the tour, “Back to Rockville,” is a nod to the Maryland hometown where the 16-year-olds started playing in garages.
It was a bad show, but compared to their opening acts, the band fell a little flat. There was little to no movement on the stage, and the audience saw the back of lead singer, Marc Roberge, as he played to the drummer or the lights overhead for half of the show.
Their opening acts, Brynn Elliot and Allen Stone, had about a two-hour set before O.A.R. took the stage. While both of these bands are different in genre, they definitely should be filed under the “new retro” cabinet with other popular artists like the Black Keys or Hozier.
Bryan Elliot resembles a young ZZ Ward in training with an earthy voice and adorable, humbling stage presence. She sat with the crowd, tap danced in tan booties and twirled in her oversized flannel. Performing songs she says “she wrote on her bedroom floor,” in addition to notable bluegrass anthems such as Dolly Parton’s, “Jolene,” she perfectly warmed up the crowd for the bands to come.
Second, Allen Stone and band mastered their hour on stage. Originally from Seattle, they have been touring with O.A.R. since 2013. In a word, they are funk-a-delic. Lead singer Allen Stone wore an army jacket embroidered with patches and round sepia-tinted glasses, a staple for all rock stars since John Lennon himself. Stone’s back up singers were synchronized in his groove; at the same time, the band was happily in their own world while Stone was the obvious source of high energy at Churchill Downs.
Boom, boom, boom.
“We believe that when there’s no computers, no technology, we achieve higher music! Oww!”
The drums continue, and so does Stone’s radical speech.
It was provocative, and it got the crowd going — for O.A.R.
Roberge said that they weren’t necessarily trying to “channel” their Maryland roots once again, but were inspired by the small town feel they rediscovered in their start up city. Hands down, one of the best parts of the night was when O.A.R. said that’s why they like Louisville, and keep coming back time and time again. In hindsight, more people should have been at Churchill Downs Wednesday evening, if only to see one of the three bands that performed.