All Jerry DePizzo wanted to do while growing up was play in a rock band.
“My uncle played me Van Halen's ‘Eruption’ when I was 5 and my head exploded. I just totally loved it,” he recalled.
In 1997, the Youngstown native met O.A.R. vocalist Marc Roberge, who had started the band just a few years earlier, at freshman orientation at Ohio State University.
“They already had bass, drum, and guitar, so I dusted off the saxophone, and here we are today.”
The rock band performs Friday at Promenade Park in downtown Toledo as part of ProMedica’s Summer Concert Series. Opening acts include singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson and Nashville pop-soul group the New Respects.
During its two decades of existence, O.A.R. has produced eight full-length albums filled with alternative and pop rock elements. The group’s 2008 hit song “Shattered (Turn the Car Around)” spent 18 weeks on Billboard’s top radio songs’ chart and peaked at No. 49. Other hits like “Love and Memories” spent 12 weeks on Billboard’s top alternative songs chart, and 2014’s “Peace” peaked at No. 19.
DePizzo joined the band shortly after high school friends Chris Culos, Richard On, and Benj Gershman joined Roberge in releasing O.A.R.’s first album, The Wanderer.
Rather than being intimidated when asked to join the band, he was impressed.
What: O.A.R., Matt Nathanson, the New Respects
When: 6:15 p.m. Friday
Where: Promenade Park, 400 Water St.
Admission: $10 Information: ticketmaster.com; Huntington Center box office; front gates of the park
“I was a fan of the band and the writing,” he said. “It was folks who were just like me telling stories and writing songs about stuff I was experiencing and going through. It really resonated with me and resonated with lot of other folks too.”
During the band’s early days in the late ’90s and into the early 2000s, the group played at house and fraternity parties before eventually gaining enough of a fan base to play at Newport Music Hall in Columbus.
“Honestly, Toledo very early on for O.A.R. was really one of the breeding grounds for our audience and fan base, and one of the places we really took a lot of time to build up that helped us really get into Cleveland and growing to Michigan and Indiana,” he said. “Toledo is an important city in the history of O.A.R.”
People across the country were downloading O.A.R. songs through Napster, which brought more exposure to the band, although the group didn’t receive revenue because of piracy.
While today’s streaming platforms, such as Apple Music and Spotify, allow the band to make a profit, the streaming catalog is so immense that new music from any band or artist could get overlooked.
DePizzo said regardless of the massive amount of music available, as long as the songs catch on with listeners, it’s still possible for new artists and bands to gain recognition.
“If you entertain folks, and it’s genuinely good and entertaining, they will gravitate toward it,” he said.
Today, O.A.R. has seen millions of streams on Spotify, including 13.6 million for “Shattered (Turn the Car Around)” and more than 24 million for “Peace.”
Although the saxophonist-guitarist admits it takes hard work and commitment to keep the band going, he said each person in the band has a mutual respect and appreciation for what O.A.R. represents.
“We have a desire to continually create new content, new records, new music, to get out there and to play shows,” he said. “We genuinely enjoy playing music together, and we’re good at it.”
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