Monday, August 11, 2003

311, OAR Deliever Heartland Reggae (The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Straight from the Jamaican-music hotbeds of Omaha, Neb., and Columbus came Riverbend's Saturday lineup featuring 311 and O.A.R., each of whom had the crowd moving to its 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 a set of pop-punk turned in by Something Corporate.

Audience reaction to O.A.R. was so glowing that it seemed 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 is 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. 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 knew every song, if not every lyric.

The five-man band, 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."