Being 1,700 miles away from home during the holidays is arguably the worst idea I’ve ever had. Well, besides my first marriage. That was a pretty terrible idea too. But, anyway, it’s lonely in December in DC! No one is from here, so after all the holiday parties, everyone goes to their hometowns and makes it back around Inauguration time, I’m sure. I’m new here, so, of course, I have no vacation time and I’ll be on my farm in Nebraska for three days. But, without realizing what I was getting into going to the O.A.R. concert on Friday night, I felt so at home. It was just what I needed!
Of a Revolution, better known as O.A.R., lived up to their name and joined such iconic musicians as Sting and Metallica in the revolution of playing with a live orchestra. On Friday, at the Strathmore Music Hall, O.A. R. played within miles of their hometown in Rockville, Maryland as a tribute to Wounded Warrior and the Heard the World Foundation.
The band is made up of Marc Roberge, lead vocals and guitar; Chris Culos, drums; Richard On, lead guitar and background vocals; Benj Gershman, bass guitar; and Jerry DePizzo, saxiphone, guitar, percussion and background vocals and added John Lampley and Evan Oberla in 2011 to lend their backing vocals and trumpet and trombone talent while on tour.
O.A.R. joined forces with Beethoven’s Found Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, a charitable organization founded by H. David Meyers, in order to showcase major orchestras and local musicians and support deserving causes through benefit concerts. The Heard the World Foundation was started by O.A.R. to support youth, education and sustainable programs around the world.
The Strathmore Music Hall is far more intimate than the Madison Square Garden type of venues that O.A.R. have sold out for the last ten years, but that’s exactly what made their first orchestra concert so perfect- nearly everyone in the crowd knew a band or orchestra member. I’ve seen them at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado three times, so not only did the show remind me of home, but there was also such a sense of hospitality and hometown pride in the people I met that day.
I was lucky enough to be invited, not only to the show, but also to the rehearsal and backstage, by H. David; Roger Whitworth; orchestra contractor, and talented violinist Raea Leinster, owner and president of Virgin Island Violins.
I walked into the Strathmore and was guided to the rehearsal without question; the staff and security just assumed I was a Rockville native and supposed to be there. I sat down mid-theater and was soon joined by the band's friends and family, including Dan White, the man in charge of bringing together the orchestral music and O.A.R.’s sound.
Marc’s mom and I chatted about her other sons- Jeff who plays with Foxtrot Zulo and Chris, who used to manage O.A.R. She was upset that she had to babysit Marc’s kids that night and would miss the show. When I asked how it all began, she responded with, “I didn’t know what they were doing at Chris’ house (the drummer). I should have asked, but hey, it all worked out!”
During the show, Marc dedicated a song to a friend that recently passed away and said, “He makes ‘Only the Good Die Young’ make sense, as only someone with big of a personality could.” That too hit home, not only for me, but also for the entire crowd, following the events that day at Sandy Hook.
The band came out into the lobby after the show to greet fans. Had this happened at other O.A.R. shows I’ve been to, chaos would have ensued. In the band’s hometown, though, they came out to see friends and family and talk about how proud they are to have just played with an orchestra, showing us pictures they had taken on stage of the musicians behind them.
Friday afternoon, I thought I was going to interview O.A.R. and Beethoven's Found and learn more about their history and philanthropy, but I can do that online in ten minutes. Instead, I have a whole newfound respect for the group, their down-to-earth outlook and their hometown pride. It reminds me of my home, friends and family and made my holiday decision to be 1700 miles from my farm seem like not quite such a bad idea.