Words by: Dan Long | Images from: myspace.com/oakhurst
Oakhurst :: 03.13.09 :: House of Blues :: Chicago, IL
One of the toughest parts of being an opening act on tour is just getting the audience to listen to your stuff.
And you wanna make that task that much more difficult? Try hitting Chicago on St. Patty's Day weekend. Denver bluegrass quintet Oakhurst did just that with a two-night stay at the House of Blues in support of old friends Gaelic Storm.
Oakhurst has been steadily building a following since its first independent release in 2001, Loose and Prosperous, through 2008's Jump in the Get Down. They've been gaining steam in Colorado, making various best bands' lists, but the thing is those accolades have come in various genres from alt country to Americana. So, what are they?
Well, bluegrass, first and foremost. The band has cut its chops laying out blistering banjo, mandolin and acoustic collaborations and spot-on harmonies for some 200 shows a year in building its following, and this first-night stop in Chicago was no different.
With the crowd giddy to see Gaelic Storm, the band found a way to get folks' attention from the get-go. This was no slow opening as AP Hill (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Zach Daniels (vocals, banjo), Adam "Tarzano" Smith (mandolin), Johnny James Qualley (stand-up bass) and Chris Budin (percussion, vocals) launched into in all-out jam with multiple solos to start the evening.
After the opener was completed, Hill shouted, "How's everybody feeling now?" After he got a few "Hell Yeah's" from the crowd, they broke into their "whiskey song," as Hill called it, featuring stellar picking from Daniels and soaring harmonies from Hill, Daniels and Budin.
Having gotten the crowd on its side, Oakhurst alternated between mid-tempo songs and high-energy jams, belying the hard-to-label label they've attained over the last few years. The band has become a staple on the Sixthman winter cruises, which is one of the best ways to reach the masses without ever leaving the deck of a cruise ship. Thirty-to-forty bands for five days on the Caribbean seas give fans a super sampler of music, and no doubt there were plenty of people in attendance who ponied up the bucks for one of Oakhurst's stints and found them worth a look-see on dry land.
The band continued its assault as the latecomers straggled in for Gaelic Storm, and Oakhurst closed with what they termed the "dancing song." By that point in the evening, the crowd wouldn't have it any other way. The Oakhurst boys made their final appearance of the night on Gaelic Storm's closing song to send everyone home with a smile on their faces, ready to embrace the rest of Chicago's celebration weekend.
Oakhurst is on tour now, dates available here.
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