A trio of East Coast artists brought the jams to the Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles, California, on a beautiful summer Tuesday, July 19th. Fans arrived early to picnic on the lawn in the back of the venue, enjoy food vendors with sumptuous offerings like wood-fired pizza and imbibe beverages from a vast selection of regional beer and wine.
Veteran Philadelphia-born troubadour G. Love started the festivities early with a short acoustic set blending perfectly with the late afternoon summer sunset. Next, the R&B-inspired precursor of hip hop-infused alternative rock played a short solo set. First, the singer-songwriter sang some of his well-known tunes like Rainbow, a duet he produced with Californian Jack Johnson, that helped propel the latter into pop music stardom. Then, while picking on acoustic guitar and harmonizing on his harmonica, the singer played newer songs like the title track from the 2020 album The Juice and “Love From Philly” from his latest album Philadelphia Mississippi. “The Juice” contours memories of the 60’s folk music movement with its anthemic protest lyrics, and the early bird crowd reacted ebulliently.
After a short break, the sun began to set behind the beautiful mountain backdrop encompassing the venue, and Maryland alternative rockers O.A.R. took the stage. The energetic band played an upbeat 90-minute set that blended perfectly with the California summer twilight. First, the band played songs from their new album Arcade, which was just released on July 15th. The six-piece band tore through a 15-song setlist from their 25-year career. The band opened with “The Stranger” from their 2005 album “Stories of A Stranger.” The group followed with a new song, “Inside Out.” The band played one of their hardest rock singles, “Love and Memories," next. Lead singer Marc Roberge gave a moving intro to the next song, “California," dedicating the 2019 track to his brother. Next, he acknowledged the many families in the crowd who had brought their children to the concert. The crowd responded wildly when the group played a Wailers cover, “Stir It Up.” That was followed by one of the band's signature songs, “Shattered (Turn Around The Car).” The tune had members of the crowd spinning their fingers in a “turn around” motion in unison.
The band played what has to be one of the quirkiest pop anthems towards the end of the set. The marathon tune “Crazy Game of Poker” was. The crowd went nuts at this moment, tossing playing cards into the air, jumping up and down, and chanting every word.
As a brilliant star-filled summer night descended on the amphitheater, the Boston-based band Dispatch took the stage next for an extended headline set. The band opened with a high-energy punk-infused rocker, “Skin The Rabbit.” The group followed with one of their earliest hit tunes, “Open Up.” A more mellow tune, their single “Only the Wild Ones,” came next.
The band was fronted by the two original members, Brad Corrigan (vocals, drums, guitar, percussion, and harmonica) and Chad Urmston (vocals, guitar, bass, and percussion). The animated pair led the group with a ubiquitous stage presence, prancing and constantly engaging the audience. An obvious crowd pleaser, “Bang Bang” came next with a jam of Hunter/Garcia's “Friend of the Devil” mixed in the middle. The jam illicit a voice fours sing along from the crowd.
After a 13-song set, the band returned for a two-song encore with members of O.A.R. and G. Love into tow. The massive musical entourage launched into a vigorous cover of R.E.M.’s “It's The End of The World as We Now It.” The show ended just after 11 pm, four hours after it started, with the Dispatch tune “Letter to Lady J.”