O.A.R..: Proud to jam without the jelly

They are the one rock group most commonly
mistaken for a jam band. But if you already knew that, then you’re probably too cool for them already. Tomorrow night, Of A Revolution, or better known as O.A.R. will perform at the Tweeter Center in Camden to an audience that will likely incorrectly regard them as this generation’s
answer to the improvisational Phish.

While not quite living up to the hype, between 2001 and 2005 O.A.R., has still managed to produce five albums and attract
a young and enthusiastic fan base.

“2001 to 2005 was a labor of love for us. We’re lucky to do what we do,” said O.A.R. bassist Benj Gershman. “Obviously, songs evolve over time, and we were learning, enjoying, playing and touring so much, it was never boring.”

The year 2006 presented an opportunity to finally take a break from the recording process and live normal lives. That is not to say that they’ve been sitting on the couch catching up on “Grey’s Anatomy” episodes.”I see 2006 as taking half of a weekend off after a really long, hard week.

We put a lot of work into touring, and to take a break. … It was good to have time to reflect, and I think it was healthy for us,” Gershman said. “We’ve been writing the past couple months for the next record. We played a few new things last tour and I think it went over pretty well. Fans seemed to take to the tunes.”

Tomorrow night, fans can hear some of these new tunes, and while it’s exciting for Gershman to play, it’s the only time he ever feels nervous performing on stage.

“The only thing I get nervous about is how it goes. Does it feel right? Did I hit the inflection right? … [The songs are] not a reflex action yet,” Gershman said. “There’s a lot of growth in the songs. We’re confident in the material. They’re different, and along the same lines,” he added.

“We’re happy where it’s going and I think fans will get where we’re going.”

Contrary to popular belief, O.A.R. is not a jam band – just ask Gershman, who emphasized that he performs arranged music, not Phish-esque improvisational guitar ballads. The Grateful Dead, Cream and the Allman Brothers Band were jam bands.

O.A.R., Gershman said, is not. While it’s an honor to be called a jam band because they’re usually composed of talented
musicians, Gershman stressed that they don’t deserve to be grouped with these musical legends of the past.

“Our songs are structured, and every show has space. We always leave room for [improvisation], but we are not a jam band.” Gershman said. “If I feel a change, or an idea or direction that feels right, the option is open to take it – as much for lyrics as for what I do – we balance that very well.”

Boozing and other vices remain an important
part of the O.A.R. experience, and Gershman wouldn’t have his fans enjoy his concert any other way.”They … are … awesome,” is all Gershman said, and needed to say, of Philadelphia fans.

“Philadelphia is a city that has real history. I’ve always liked walking around where I’m playing and the older parts [of the city] when I have the chance.” Gershman said.

The lactose intolerant bassist may not be a dairy fan, but on visits to Philadelphia he packs his lactose pills and bears the pain for a bite of the city’s favorite food, a Philly cheesesteak.

“I always have to take a bunch of lactose pills before I eat, so I can eat about two,” he said.

Chris Zakorchemny can be reached at chris.zak@temple.edu.

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