Lil Bro: Emcees bring the show to life

The band O.A.R is considered to be one of the hottest new groups on the touring circuit right now. Earlier this year, the group played Starr Hill and later the Charlottesville Pavilion– both to a warm reception. Since then, they've traveled the country playing amphitheaters and large concert halls to the tune of 8,000-10,000people per show.

For those unfamiliar with O.A.R., one could describe them as the group du jour for the college jam-rock scene. Their popularity has grown tremendously for two reasons: 1) They use the Internet to build and maintain relationships with their fans, as well as provide exclusive songs and promotions to the most dedicated; 2) The lead singer is also something of a short story writer. The songs he writes apparently are all pieces of these intertwined stories. The more you listen to the group, the more the stories unfold.

Simple it ain't, but quite clever– clever enough to make them a ton of money. The kind of money that provides the group with a personal chef on tour plus a few other amenities one would associate only with big-time rock stars. How do I know about the things on O.A.R.'s tour bus? I've been keeping track... sort of.

Truth is, I couldn't care less about O.A.R. I don't hate the guys. I don't care enough to hate them. But I do care about Little Brother, the trio that has been opening for them on their current tour. In all honesty, it struck me as odd that Little Brother, a underground hip-hop group from Greensboro, North Carolina, would be sharing the stage with O.A.R. on their trek around the U.S. (I wonder who hired the pothead that came up with that idea.)

According to Little Brother, initially O.A.R. wasn't too keen on having them open up the tour. But after hearing their album and seeing the stage show, they were so excited that now they end their shows with a jam sessionO.A.R. and Little Brother together.

After hopping around doing large venue dates with O.A.R., Little Brother touched down this weekend for a performance of their own at the UVA Student Activities Building. UVA spared no expense. There was a huge stage, a killer sound system, and lights galore. As the crowd trickled in, you could see their amazement at the professional setup.

Little Brother took the stage after opener Mike Fields finished serenading the ladies with his soul-splashed R&B. Almost as soon as Fields sang his last note, the lights went down, and Little Brother came running out on stage. I think the group was a bit shocked at the humble turnout of– maybe– 200 people. I mean, they've been rocking for 8,000-10,000, remember? They jumped into some call-and-response to warm up the audience before plunging into songs off their critically acclaimed album, The Minstrel Show.

LB rocked for over an hour and kept the audience's attention for the entirety. However, for a group whose fame is due in part to the fact that their producer, 9th Wonder, made contributions to Jay-Z's Black Album, I found the beats to be very one-dimensional: the same ol' boom bap.

Granted, I'm a child of the '94 hip-hop new school– the same era that ushered in that sound– but I didn't realize how formulaic 9th Wonder really is. Regardless, frontmen Phonte and Big Pooh kept the audience engaged.

The highlights of the performance were Phonte's between-song banter. He sang, told jokes, and danced. The beats may have been one-dimensional, but the emcees were incredibly versatile– versatile enough to rock this crowd, or just about any crowd... including O.A.R.'s.