“This Town” from the album All Sides
Of a Revolution — a.k.a. O.A.R. — is no stranger to the big show. Formed in 1996 in Rockville, Md., the band has gone from the halls of Thomas Sprigg Wootton High School and the party circuit of Ohio State University to some of the biggest concert halls in the world.
They’ve sold out Madison Square Garden and rocked the Gorge in George, Wash. Currently, they’re headlining their All Sides Tour to promote their latest album (get this) All Sides and will be paying Charleston a visit this Saturday. It’s their third year in a row at the Family Circle Magazine Stadium on Daniel Island.
All Sides is the band’s fifth studio album and has already debuted higher than any previous album of theirs on the Billboard charts. The first single “Shattered” is also the band’s biggest chart-topping success to date. The jam band that was once just another flyer on a phone pole at OSU draws a big crowd these days.
In addition to “Shattered,” All Sides has a lot to offer fans. “This Town” is a fist-pumping ode to every fan in every podunk town across the country and was featured on ESPN’s coverage of the College World Series. The album also treats fans more reflective songs like “War Song.”
All Sides is a different sound for the band and shows a definite progression from earlier efforts like The Wanderer (1997) or In Between Now and Then (2003). This progression is to be expected. Most bandmembers were 16 when they wrote many of the tracks for The Wanderer. Now with the bandmates pushing 30, All Sides is decidedly more mature but still remains fun and true to the band’s jammy roots.
Guitarist/lead vocalist Marc Roberge and drummer Chris Culos combined forces with guitarist/back-up vocalist Richard On and bassist Benj Gershman to form O.A.R. in high school. When they picked up saxophonist Jerry Depizzo at Ohio State, they had the recipe to rock and started crafting their blend of rock and reggae. This musical fusion of elements makes their music hard to categorize. Whatever you want to call their party-friendly musical blend, OAR knows exactly why they take the stage.
“A lot of artists like to be really serious, but you know what, to us its really quite simple,” On says. “Our goal is to kind of let you escape from whatever is stressing you out.”
While OAR tries to play music to help listeners escape, they also try to make the world a better place. They’re more than just another cliché rock ‘n’ roll outfit content with merely being adored by their fans. O.A.R. makes a point to use their popularity positively. The band played a rally to benefit Darfur in 2006 and did a USO tour in 2007 that inspired “War Song” on the new album.
“Man, I think first off, anyone who is in the position that we’re in is obligated to help out to promote [solving] problems in the world,” On says. “If our fans see that we’re involved with something like that, hopefully that will motivate them to be involved in something that they’re passionate about.”
Judging from the charts, more fans than ever are opting to “escape” into O.A.R.’s music. It was at a show at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus, Ohio that the band first realized they weren’t just the typical underground college band.
“We were supposed to be the opening- opening for the opener, so we went on at like four in the afternoon,” says On. “We were like ‘no one is coming to this,’ but we ended up packing that place and as soon as we were done, everyone left. That was kind of a light bulb to me that we were on to something, when the opener draws more people than the headliner.”
However, O.A.R. didn’t start out packing venues and playing for sold out crowds. They didn’t earn their fans or mainstream acclaim in some meteoric rise to fame. The small-town guys earned their fan base one illegal download and frat party at a time.
While other bands were eager to join labels and burst onto the Billboard charts, O.A.R. paid its dues grassroots style and jammed out for any crowd that would listen.
“We played any gig that ever came our way whether it was a fraternity, a synagogue, or a waterski team party,” says On.
With early songs like “About an Hour Ago,” “Crazy Game of Poker,” and “Hey Girl,” kids on the internet received a sugar rush for a kind of feel-good grooves O.A.R. had to offer. While bands like Metallica were bitching and moaning, O.A.R. was unknowingly reaping the benefits of file-sharing.
“I definitely credit Napster with spreading our music,” On says. “Back in the day, we would show up at places we had never been before and not only would the shows be sold out but the kids would know all the words. We were like this is insane. What is going on?”