DOWNERS GROVE – Music lovers who flock to concerts and festivals every summer have more than likely heard the classic rock band ARRA perform before huge crowds of adoring fans. This month will find ARRA launching the music lineup at Rotary GroveFest on the first day of summer, taking the stage from 5 to 6:30 p.m. June 21, followed by an impressive list of bands to round out the night in Downers Grove.
ARRA consists of Kevin Conner of Downers Grove on lead guitar and vocals; Jim "Blaze" Zahrobsky of Brookfield on rhythm guitar and vocals; Steve Latka of Darien on bass and vocals; Kevin Kreis of Midlothian on keyboards; Mike Gallus of Lake Zurich on drums; and lead singer Pete Greco from Hickory Hills, who joined the group a few years ago after Ronnie Platt left to go on tour with the hit group Kansas.
ARRA regularly appears at benefit events. Rotary GroveFest, in operation for nine years, raises money for graduating seniors and for grants to nonprofit organizations. Recently, ARRA performed at a concert for autism awareness called Breaking the Silence at a club in Palatine. The band played last fall at the Downers Grove Oktoberfest, whose proceeds went to School District 58, where Conner’s daughters Jessica and Alexis attend school.
Voted as the Best Classic Band in the NiteLife Best of the Burbs contest five years in a row, ARRA will celebrate its 30th anniversary in October. According to Conner, the group has remained a local mainstay for three decades because “the band just clicked," he said. "We got lucky; we all get along, we love what we do, and do our best with precision and excellence, and three- to four-part harmonies.”
The band has over 100 songs in its repertoire focused on mega hits from the '70s and '80s, including a favored list of the most popular songs by Journey, Boston, Styx, Foreigner, Aerosmith, REO, Toto and other artists – upbeat music in which the audience can’t seem to resist the urge to move and sing along.
It comes as no surprise that the talented, long-standing musicians have shared the stage with notable artists such as Survivor, Rare Earth, Kansas, 38 Special and Dennis DeYoung of Styx. In fact, in the early days, both Conner and Zahrobsky took guitar lessons from former Styx musician John Curulewski.
Fans have referred to the band as “high energy,” “electrifying,” “a pleasant trip down memory lane” and “a band that brings people together.”
Greco, who would go on to become lead singer, and his wife, Sandi, can attest to the “together” part. They said they met at an ARRA concert as fans of the group 24 years ago.
The special memories formed during three decades of music making never fade, including the honor of opening for Dennis DeYoung at the Pritzker Pavilion on Father’s Day for the Vietnam veterans' welcome home anniversary in 2011. Performing with the Ides of March also makes the top of the favorite events list, when Jim Peterik, a mogul of the music industry, joined ARRA and played keys while Conner sang “I Can’t Hold Back” by Survivor, co-written by Peterik.
Another standout moment happened when ARRA was scheduled to play a club during the middle of a heavy snow storm. Expecting a small crowd because of the inclement weather, ARRA was shocked to find the venue jam-packed.
“When your fans stay during a blizzard, you know you have a loyal fan base,” Conner remembers fondly.
ARRA puts on 60 to 70 shows a year at clubs, casinos, outdoor series and festivals. The musicians remain one of the most sought-after bands in the state, and work hard to maintain the accolades, keeping thousands of fans smiling and swaying to the sweet beat of the memorable tunes.
Looking ahead, ARRA will return to Downers Grove for Harvest Fest, appearing from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Fischel Park band shell, which will include a surprise local guest. To check out the band's full performance schedule, which will include shows in La Grange, Elmhurst, Itasca, Glendale Heights, Streamwood, Addison, Willow Springs, Geneva and Willowbrook between now and autumn, visit www.arraweb.com.
If you go
WHAT: ARRA band to kick off Rotary GroveFest music lineup
WHEN: 5 to 6:30 p.m. June 21; festival runs June 20 to 23
WHERE: Enter through east or west gates of entertainment area
COST: $5 cover charge for people ages 16 and older at entertainment area after 4:30 p.m. June 21 and 22 and after 3:30 p.m. June 23