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Live at the 9:30 Club - Virginia Coalition

Posted in Music, Press Releases, Reviews, Videos, Mp3, Interviews, youtube, Bands, Virginia Coalition, Dave Matthews, Washington DC on October 26, 2006 at 6:27 pm by bandweblogs

Andrew Poliakoff: lead vocals, guitar, percussion
Jarrett Nicolay: guitar, bass guitar, banjo, vocals
Paul Ottinger: guitar, keyboards, bass guitar, percussion, vocals
John Patrick: drums, vocals

Virginia Coalition

Listen to “That’s What You Said”

Listen to “Gates of Wisdom”

“Yes, we feel like gettin’ it on!”
– 1,300 VACO fans, chanting on Live at the 9:30 Club

It was the day after New Year’s, 2006, at the 9:30 Club. But it could have been anywhere.

That’s because the entertainment, Virginia Coalition (known to friends as VACO), has made it their habit to meet or beat the expectations of their fans, whether opening for the Dave Matthews Band, O.A.R., and Counting Crows, or packing the House of Blues in Chicago and Irving Plaza in New York on their own.

No matter where they perform, whether close to home in D.C. or further away as they break nationwide, each appearance reflects the talent and motivation these guys have exhibited ever since they first surfaced on the Georgetown club circuit.

In truth, that night at the 9:30 Club was really not that different from most of their gigs … and that’s what makes Live at the 9:30 Club, their second release on the bluhammock music label, worth hearing.

First of all, the place was jammed with supporters, whose enthusiasm feeds the energy of the band. (Check that chant-along passage on “Jerry Jermaine.”) Like every Virginia Coalition show, this one is about how the love they get from their audience fuels what they do onstage.

That, of course, is the real point: This set might have been played at any one of the college dates, or the open-air amphitheaters, or the festivals that fill the VACO schedule. Through word of mouth, on message boards, and in the kudos they’ve earned from the Washington Post (“Reader’s Choice: Best Local Band” two years in a row) and other media, VACO is becoming part of this summer’s soundtrack throughout America.

But for now, let’s go back to this one performance, on a freezing night in Washington, when the tapes would roll and the world would learn what it means to hear Virginia Coalition in its glory …

“It was exciting and it was scary,” admits lead singer Andrew Poliakoff, “because I felt very strongly about doing our first live record.”

“We practiced a lot,” chimes in multi-instrumentalist Jarrett Nicolay. “But then we hit this moment that was like, ‘You know what? We shouldn’t over-think this.’”

“It was almost like we had to stop practicing,” Andrew adds. “A lot of our show is spontaneous, so we decided to not get in our own way.”

“It was enough to put our game face on and play the show,” Jarrett explains. “Luckily, it went all right.”

“All right,” by VACO standards, means getting people on their feet, lifting them up into some of the catchiest music being played anywhere by anyone, and sending them home with smiles on their faces – all in a night’s work.

That’s what happens on Live at the 9:30 Club. But, again, this is nothing new. When they first met at T. C. Williams High School, back in Alexandria, Virginia, these guys already absorbed the usual radio staples – R.E.M., Led Zeppelin, and the inevitable Beatles – along with the go-go groove that pulsed across the Potomac in Washington. These influences invested even this prototype version of VACO with a unique musical flavor, which intensified as they began to play in public.

Despite momentary distractions, like going to college and working day jobs, they hung together and played pretty much anywhere they could, as often as possible. “We’d work at whatever club in Georgetown would let a bunch of our high school friends in to get crocked and party their brains out,”

Andrew explains. “Even then we were doing almost all original songs. Eventually, when we started getting weekly residencies and had to play for three hours, we added covers to the set …”

“But they were never mainstream covers,” Jarrett interjects. “We do a Funky Meters tune or a James Taylor B-side that your average person wouldn’t know. To this day, people still think that we wrote ‘Africa’ by Toto …”

“… or, if we were out of songs, we’d just play that go-go beat,” Andrew says, smiling. “That came in handy too.”

With a budget that consisted mainly of vapor and ambition, they cut their first album, The Colors of the Sound, in the basement where they rehearsed. Two years later they followed their debut disc with Townburg, produced by Ted Comerford and engineered by the legendary Mitch Easter. Album three, Rock & Roll Party, earned them their first bookings on the West Coast, climbed to No. 18 on Billboard’s list of Internet album sales, and lodged at the top of the Aware Store’s best-selling list for more than two months.

OK to Go, released in 2004, marked VACO’s debut on bluhammock. Working on that project with producer Matt Wallace (Maroon 5, the Replacements, Train) focused their sound and persuaded them they were ready to document their show on their next release.

“Also,” Jarrett points out, “maybe nine million people had told us that we should make a live record, and we were finally like, ‘You know, you might be right.’”

So, with bluhammock’s blessings, they hauled a bunch of recording gear into the venue, planted producer/engineer Jeff Juliano (John Mayer, O.A.R., Dave Matthews Band) at the controls, and let it roll. The results slam from the opening seconds of “Walk to Work.” The spiraling piano intro that launches “Green and Grey,” the ecstatic crescendo through the last minutes of “Motown,” the jazzy interplay of “Undeniable,” the Latin jam that erupts after “Gates of Wisdom,” the spontaneous detour into an exuberant cover of “Lean on Me,” Jarrett’s turntable/barking dog/whatever-it-is classical moment just before “Places People”– all this hints at the experience that awaits everyone who makes it to a VACO show.

“Well, what can I say?” Andrew shrugs. “We used to get our asses handed to us at bar gigs where people didn’t even want to hear us – and then all of a sudden, at the end of the night, a guy who had been heckling you comes up and hugs you instead …”

“Let’s have more of that,” Jarrett mutters, less enthusiastically.

“ … and all you want to do is get out there again and turn it up,” Andrew sums up. “We’ve never been shoegazers. Even back then, we were stargazers, and we still are today.”

The stars were out at the 9:30 Club that night. Crank it up, sit back, and have a look …

Watch Virginia Coalition perform “Africa” at one of their live shows at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC with special guests Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers!

For more information go to Virginia Coalition’s Official Website.

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