Chris Smither, Patty Larkin, and Kris Kristofferson are booked for future performances. The opening day will feature music by local bands, the Blue Band, and Pieta Brown & Bo Ramsey. Local and regional talent will be featured in the coffee shop, Mojo's, on Thursdays and Fridays.
• Two cool new soundtracks are flying low under the commercial radar but are worthy of finding. The Zero to One Records imprint has just released Eric Holland's soundtrack to Dopamine, recently the winner of the 2003 Alfred P.
The District of Rock Island kicks off its festival season this weekend with Hornucopia, an event whose only musical parameter is that the bands must feature horns. Hornucopia this year features a wide variety of bands from throughout the Midwest, as well as a pair from Canada.
• My pick of the week is this Tuesday's funky touchdown by The Clinton Administration, and I don't mean Ray Ban-ed Willie mugging with his saxophone on Arsenio Hall. A new mothership has landed, my brothers, with space pimp afterburners smoking up the joint, blistering in the hazy jam of its "take me to your leader" funk.
• Sex, drugs, and murder. Back it up with an infectious beat and you're sure to cause people's neck hair to rise up along with their blood pressure. Author Peter Blecha has tackled this subject in a new well-researched book, Taboo Tunes: A History of Banned Bands & Censored Songs, on the Backbeat Books imprint.
• Eric Clapton has created the Crossroads Guitar Festival, a one-time music festival this summer that sounds like a wet dream for guitar fanatics. To be held June 4 through 6 in Dallas, Texas, the festival features not only great live performances but also many intimate acoustic- and electric-guitar clinics held in the fest's Guitar Center Village.
For a band that got signed to a major label, O.A.R. isn't content to stay the course. In an interview with the River Cities' Reader, Jerry DiPizzo, the group's saxophonist, talked mostly about what he and his collaborators would like to do better.

Preparing to go into the studio later this year, the band is trying to plan more. For last year's In Between Now & Then, the group's debut on the Atlantic-owned Lava label following four independent releases, O.A.R. started prepping two months before recording and had tested most of the material on the road.

Now, a good six months before heading into the studio, the band is already making decisions about where it wants to record and with whom. And it plans to keep new material mostly under wraps – out of its live shows.

"Our mindset is much further out" now, DiPizzo said. As for withholding new material, he noted that the band feels it should have held more back with the last record. "Most [of the songs] had been played out live," he said.

O.A.R. - which stands for "Of a Revolution" - has always excelled in live performance with its feel-good jam-band vibe infused with reggae and ska, as Quad Citians will learn with the group's show on Thursday at the Adler Theatre. But that's only one part of a successful band's life, with radio and recordings being the other components. And that's why O.A.R. is so focused on bettering its writing and preparation.

Self-improvement is a theme with DiPizzo. "One thing we could improve upon is our songwriting process," he said, "having a better idea of what you want going in. ... We're constantly looking to improve, ... to convey our ideas and message in a straightforward manner."

In the past, songwriting has started with small nuggets from singer-guitarist Marc Roberge and guitarist Richard On that the group expands upon together. Now, DiPizzo said, the group is looking to begin with fully formed songs, with each member adding parts at the tail end of the process.

DiPizzo said he's not sure whether this change will result in leaner songs in the O.A.R. mold or a different sound altogether. "We really haven't tried it yet," he said.

This level of critical self-evaluation might make O.A.R. seem like a work-in-progress, which it most certainly isn't. The band has been remarkably successful. With energetic live shows and a fan-friendly approach, the group has generated sales of roughly 150,000 CDs for two releases, and its major-label offering is at about that level. Led by the hearty, inviting vocals of Roberg and with warm island grooves, O.A.R.'s feel is instantly pleasant.

But radio has been elusive, in part because the band - which formed in 1998 - came on the scene a little late for the "adult alternative" boom of Hootie, Dave Matthews, and Blues Traveler.

The jam-band trappings are also a problem. DiPizzo noted that a staple of the band's live show, "That Was a Crazy Game of Poker," is "in its shortest form seven or eight minutes long" - in other words, not exactly radio-friendly.

But the band isn't sure how to break into radio and get the sales windfall that results. "If I knew, I'd probably be doing it," he said.

Surely, the band could take the Grateful Dead path, making its money and its reputation through touring, but O.A.R. has bigger aims. "You want to be successful on all levels of what you do," DiPizzo said.

He added that O.A.R. knows that its success will hinge on how much work the band does. "There are no fingers to point" if something fails, he said. "It's your fault."

O.A.R. will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 29. Tickets are $27.50. For more information on the band, visit (http://www.ofarevolution.com).
• Although Loretta Lynn is nearing 70, her new album (out this week) is so good it makes my teeth hurt. Packed with 13 new originals, the album is a dream project to Jack White of the White Stripes, who a few years back could have only dreamed of working with the country legend, let alone in a duet on the track "Portland, OR" and playing on, producing, and arranging the entire CD.
• On a mini-tour of a dozen dates across North America and the crowning glory of the Coachella Festival in May, the newly re-formed Pixies are pushing west with a technical vengeance, offering a new anthology DVD this Tuesday and a series of "instant gratification" live CDs sold after every night's show.
Opening acts for major concerts are hit-or-miss affairs - they're often just résumé-builders for the undercard bands, because most of the audience is still going through the security check - but here's a piece of advice: Do not miss The Mars Volta at Sunday's A Perfect Circle concert at The Mark.

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