O.A.R. to plug in at Leede Arena

by Lindsay Barnes | 11/14/03 6:00am

When "That Was a Crazy Game of Poker" became an underground hit for O.A.R., some called the band an overnight success. But after talking to the band's bassist Benj Gershman, one would find nothing could be further from the truth.

The group started out as just another high school band in Ohio. In fact, some of the band's beginnings lay in Gershman's summer job as a lifeguard. "Chris [Culos, O.A.R's drummer] and I were hanging out as lifeguards and we got to the subject of playing and that he had been looking for a bass player," said Gershman in an interview with The Dartmouth, "We figured that out on the last day of the summer."

Recording and releasing their first demo in 1997, the band soon shifted their home base to Columbus, Oh. as the all four members of O.A.R. matriculated to Ohio State University. O.A.R. soon became a quintet with the addition of saxophonist Jerry DiPizzo, and the band's lineup was finally cemented.

Soon thereafter, the band started to build a grassroots following within Ohio State's extensive fraternity scene by relentlessly playing show after show. And while many recording artists criticize file sharing for a loss of profit, it proved a boon for O.A.R.'s music.

"Soon it got on the Internet to people all across the country. We thought that was awesome; we couldn't ask for more," said Gershman.

But the band's true breakthrough would come with a song inspired by Stephen King's "The Stand" to write "That Was a Crazy Game of Poker." Receiving significant airplay on college radio, it put O.A.R. on the so-called "frat rock" map.

When asked about when he knew "Poker" was a hit, Gershman said, "Oh man, I don't even know what a hit is. I think we just realized people were yelling for it at shows. Once people started asking for it, we realized we had a good thing going."

After the song spread like wildfire, the group found itself performing for crowds numbering no longer in the hundreds but in the tens and hundreds of thousands, playing both the Jeep Outdoor Festival and the Bonnaroo Music Festival. O.A.R. was now sharing the bill with the likes of The Flaming Lips, The Dead, The Allman Brothers Band, Sheryl Crow, Train and even the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown.

The experience was one of learning according to Gershman. "You try to get the most out of it, there's so much that's going on at once, you just try to catch it all. Everybody was really nice, down to earth and cool. Getting to hang with those acts was just fun," he said.

All this led to O.A.R. signing what most every kid who picks up a guitar dreams of -- a major label deal. The band has recently released "In Between Now and Then" on Lava Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. Gershman notes that the difference between their latest effort and previous outings is the care that was taken in production.

"We had a little more time to work with, so that gave us a chance to really plan everything out and layer everything track by track and hone in on what we wanted the songs to actually sound like," Gershman explained, "It was the first time where, if we didn't like something, we could do it again."

O.A.R. will play tomorrow night in Leede Arena, with the show scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for students, $20 for the general public.

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