Psyched for the hometown crowd

Rockville's O.A.R. can't wait to party at the Preakness

May 13, 2010|By Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Sun

As if being in the Preakness infield isn't cool enough — how about rocking onstage at the Preakness, in front of a bunch of family and friends?

O.A.R. can't wait. Growing up in Rockville, drummer Chris Culos says, the Preakness was always a big deal — a major party, and a chance for him and his friends to kick back and have a serious good time. Even after he and three Wootton High School classmates decided to form a band their junior year, it never occurred to them that they'd be on that stage someday.

"Absolutely, it's a big deal for us," Culos says. "Not only is it a big, awesome event we're kind of honored to be asked to play in, it's something we grew up going to, in high school and in college. It was always a fun experience, fun parties. We had lots of friends who would always go, it was something you looked forward to every year. And now, to actually be part of the event, yeah, it's pretty exciting."

O.A.R. (the name stands for "Of A Revolution"), along with the Grammy-winning Zac Brown Band, will be the main-stage performers at this year's Preakness InfieldFEST. They succeed the bands booked for last year's inaugural fest, ZZ Top and Buckcherry, and are part of a concerted effort by Preakness organizers to woo back the younger crowd that, unimpressed with the talent lineup and angered that they could no longer bring their own mass quantities of beer, stayed away from the infield in droves last year.

"I think we worked through some of last year's issues," Maryland Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas told The Baltimore Sun when the lineup was announced in March. "We did a little homework and listened to the feedback from customers on what they'd like to see." Although they still won't be able to BYOB, infield partyers will be able to buy bottomless beer mugs for $20.

A second stage will feature acts by Mr. Greengenes, Jason Michael Carroll and Collective Soul.

Culos, 31, says the band will have a few surprises in store for their Pimlico appearance. Its 90-minute set will include many of the familiar standbys, including O.A.R.'s magnum opus, the nine-minute "That Was a Crazy Game of Poker" (often stretched to about 20 minutes when performed live). But it will also include at least two new songs, never performed live before, from an unreleased album the band members just finished recording in Los Angeles.

"It's exciting for us, and it'll be exciting for the crowd, because it'll be something new to talk about," Culos says. "We've never really been a band that likes to shove the new stuff down your throat. We try to do a good job of spreading out old songs, new songs, a couple of rare songs that the more diehard audience wants to hear. It's really a whole variety of everything."

But whether they're playing new stuff or old standards (it's a good bet the audience will hear "Shattered," O.A.R.'s platinum-selling 2009 single), Culos promises one thing. He and the rest of the band are going to be plenty psyched playing before the hometown crowd.

"We don't get nervous," he says. "We get this anxious, excited, can't-wait-to-get-up-and-play kind of feeling. When we look out into the crowd, you can pick out — 'That's my parents, there's all my high school friends, there's everybody.' It's just so funny.

"We'll play as long as they let us," he promises.

If you go

The gates open at 8 a.m. for Preakness InfieldFEST 2010, which officially kicks off at 10 a.m. Tickets are $40; add another $20 if you want to buy one of the limited number of tickets that include a bottomless beer mug. Call 410-542-9400 or go to preakness.com/infield

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