published Saturday, June 15th, 2013

Grab your O.A.R.: Party-loving band to rock 'This Town' at Riverbend finale

O.A.R. band members are, from left, Beni Gershman, Chris Culos, Richard On, Marc Roberge and Jerry DePizzo.
O.A.R. band members are, from left, Beni Gershman, Chris Culos, Richard On, Marc Roberge and Jerry DePizzo.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

* What: O.A.R.

* When: 9:30-11 tonight

* Where: Coca-Cola Stage.

JUNE 7-15 • CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE

If the audience is having a good time at tonight's Riverbend Coca-Cola Stage finale, chances are the members of O.A.R. will be having a good time.

"Personally, I love outdoor venues," says drummer and band founder Chris Culos. "There's a lot to be said for intimate bars and clubs. It's a good experience for the audience. But there's nothing better than an outdoor show during the summer hearing thousands of people singing back to you."

The rock band's goal, he says, is to create a concert that's the best of both worlds.

"Our job is to make it feel intimate," Culos says, adding that a typical show might have audience members throwing out song titles, lead vocalist Marc Roberge pointing out people in the audience and even band members signing things. "People want to experience those moments."

The band played Bonnaroo in 2008, and its most recent release, "Live on Red Rocks," is a CD/DVD of a July 2012 performance at the outdoor amphitheater just outside Denver.

O.A.R., which stands for Of a Revolution, has

sold nearly 2 million albums and more than 2 million concert tickets since pursuing their musical dreams full-time in the summer of 2001.

Its highest-charting single was 2008's "Shattered (Turn the Car Around)," which went to No. 2 on the Billboard Adult Pop Song chart, but they may be known best locally for 2008's "This Town," which was the unofficial song of the 2010 Atlanta Braves and was played before and after every telecast by Fox Sports South.

Braves' fans weren't the only ones to hear the song, though. It was the theme song for all 2010 and 2011 Chicago Cubs broadcasts on the Chicago Cubs Radio Network, was used by Fox Sports North after the eighth inning of Minnesota Twins games, was used in Fox Sports Houston commercials for the Houston Astros, has been used for the NCAA Men's College World Series and as a theme song of Fox Sports' NASCAR coverage.

"We're lucky that it has been," says Culos. "It's an alternative way of reaching a new audience. Bands aren't selling a million records anymore, and it's tough to get songs on the radio.

"For us, it makes a lot of sense," he says. The sports audiences "are in that sort of young demographic -- in college, into sports and music, in somewhat of that lifestyle. People can relate to it. For us, it's a huge opportunity."

It's also given the band opportunities to meet athletess and go in locker rooms where traditional fans never go.

"Those are some amazing memories," he says.

Culos says band members want to make sure concertgoers on the current "Sounds of Summer" tour get some amazing memories, too.

"A lot of work goes into that," he says. "We grew up going to concerts with our best friends. So we know what it's like with kids getting excited for a concert, coming to a show and [seeing that what the band] is putting on is more than they expected."

Fortunately for audiences, Culos says, the band has an amazing crew, sound system, light show and set list.

"Whether you see us one time or 20 times, we want to create those moments that are spontaneous," he says. "Every tour, every night is different. We've taken it, grown it. We want to make it feel like a party [and for concertgoers] to leave with a smile on their face."

O.A.R. was formed in Culos' basement when he and other band members were in high school in Rockville, Md. The band released its first album before its members graduated and stayed together while they attended Ohio State University.

"The days in the basement seem like just yesterday," says the drummer, who lives in Chicago but is moving to Nashville in August. "We were childhood friends. We had dreams of doing this. Now we get to do it full time."

Culos says the friendship of the band members continues to strengthen it.

"It's a tough business," he says. "We've seen a lot of bands come and go. We've all seen crazy stuff in the movies like attitudes, drugs, craziness, excess. We're fortunate to have strong support from our families to keep us grounded, to keep us driven."

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.

Riverbend 2013 Schedule
Live updates from Riverbend
about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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