OAR will co-headline the show with Dispatch on August 7 at Kemba Live

Four songs were in the books when OAR prepared to throw what could be a curve ball. It was July 9 and the veteran band were performing a post-game gig at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, when the 12th song from their fourth studio album was next on the setlist.

You know, the one that opens with “There’s a road outside of Columbus, Ohio…” When played in Columbus, where it made its live debut 20 years ago in September at Newport Music Hall, these opening lyrics of “Road Outside Columbus” are greeted by a cacophony of sound. But playing in front of a crowd of Cincinnatians, saxophonist Jerry DePizzo was slightly apprehensive.

“We played this song and I didn’t really know how it was going to go,” DePizzo, 43, said. “We’re all from Ohio, but they’re two different cities, and they loved it. It certainly warms my heart when we sing the first line and the whole place goes up. It’s a good feeling.

It’s a vibe that OAR will bring to Kemba Live on August 7, for a show they co-host with Dispatch. As they approach their 25th anniversary as a group that spent their formative years as Ohio State students, the members of OAR have taken up residence in various parts of the country, but DePizzo remains local when not on tour. Columbus, however, holds a special place for the band that has stuck around even as the members moved away and their name sported bigger marquees.

In a career that has seen the band sell out venues such as New York’s Madison Square Garden, DePizzo said the Newport’s first sale still remains a cornerstone of the band’s success.

“Hands to God they feel the same otherwise Newport feels better,” he said. “Selling the Newport was probably more difficult than doing the Garden in the sense that the numbers, the chance that the group would work, the odds of that happening are just ridiculous. To be able to walk down the High Street when we were freshmen at Ohio State, see that marquee in Newport and say, “One day our name will be on that marquee…”

“Making that happen and being the catalyst and then going out and doing a lot of great things was super important and really impactful.”

Lay tracks

OAR is touring on the back of their new album “The Arcade,” which was announced on July 13 and released digitally two days later. The 10-track effort includes a range of songs that DePizzo has said will hopefully evoke the feelings of visiting a beach boardwalk while on vacation and venturing into an arcade with a variety of video games.

DePizzo said the pandemic has created a “forced break” for OAR, a band used to a busy touring schedule forced to rotate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This record more than most, the tracks were sent all over the place,” he said. “We didn’t really record at one location as a band on this one. Each song really had its own taste, its own flavor and its own direction, and each really represented the influence and style that each of us had.

This approach to the album was radically different from the recording processes of early albums such as “Soul’s Aflame”, “The Wanderer” or even the first label “In Between Now And Then”, which features the aforementioned tribute to Columbus.

“At that time you would have very limited time to be in the studio,” DePizzo said. “The only way to work on an album is in the studio where you pay by the minute or by the hour. It’s much more freeing to walk around my house at 10 at night and say, ‘Ah. I have this role. And then go for it, instead of being in a studio and having to figure it out at the time.

To celebrate the 2003 release of ‘In Between Now And Then’, fans can pre-order it at Johnny Go’s House O’ Music on the High Street and receive a ticket to an acoustic performance on release day at a ballroom in the city. ‘Ohio Union. This record store, one of the first to sell OAR albums, is now a target and this iteration of the union was razed in 2006 and reopened four years later.

Yet OAR remains. “The Arcade” is the band’s 11th album, a total that does not include six live albums.

For the first time in nearly four years, this experience – and almost certainly “Road Outside Columbus” – returns to its namesake.

“This song in particular, it certainly resonates with the people of Columbus because it has a lot of milestones and touchstones that are familiar to people, but I also think the people who are there facing their dreams and what they want to do in the world and land in new unknown places and navigate through it can connect to that song as well,” DePizzo said. “It’s always a ton of fun.”

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In one look

OAR will perform August 7 at Kemba Live, 405 Neil Ave. Doors will open at 6 p.m. The concert will take place rain or shine. Tickets start at $49.50. For more information, visit www.promowestlive.com.

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