Virginia Coalition
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Virginia Coalition

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The best kept secret in music


"Virginia Coalition "Live at the 9:30 Club""

PLAYING BEFORE A hometown crowd always seems to give a band a jolt of
energy, and that extra boost is readily apparent in this recording of the Virginia Coalition's performance at the 9:30 club earlier this year. The quartet -- whose members met at Alexandria's T.C. Williams High School -- literally beams with enthusiasm, from vocalist Andrew Poliakoff's booming belly laugh at the end of "Hurricane Song" to a harmony-drenched singalong cover of Bill Withers's "Lean on Me."

Virginia Coalition -- or VaCo, as it is known to its fans -- is somewhat
reminiscent of Blues Traveler, from its jam-rock style to Poliakoff's
roaring, John Popper-esque voice. But the group hardly seems locked in that style, as it shows off the many sounds of a Casio keyboard for the crowd and launches into a salsa breakdown at the end of "Gates of Wisdom."

"Live at the 9:30 Club" is an hour and 45 minutes of unwavering vibrancy; even on the many songs that stretch longer than eight minutes, Poliakoff and company never let their energy wane. Likewise, the crowd's excitement
audibly ricochets through the club's cavernous space, capturing the rock
'n' adoration that VaCo surely dreamed about in high school.

- Washington Post

"Virginia Coalition keeps rolling with live album and espresso"

Who can get hundreds of girls (okay, and a few guys) to scream “Yes, we feel like getting it on!” in unison and mean it? Unless you guessed D.C.’s own Virginia Coalition, chances are you’re wrong.

From the second Virginia Coalition (VACO to friends and fans) step on stage until the end of their last sweaty encore, the crowd is standing, grooving and fueling the irresistible VACO energy that is flowing over the country faster than it takes you to pop in their new album, Live at the 9:30 Club.

The members of Virginia Coalition, Andrew Poliakoff, Paul Ottinger, Jarrett Nicolay and John Patrick met at T.C. Williams High School, the extremely diverse Alexandria, Va. school where Disney’s Remember The Titans was filmed. While the boys’ high school music tastes included radio standards, ‘go-go grooves’ (which are indigenous to D.C.) and some good old Virginia gospel helped create a very unique (and talented) group.

The D.C.-born and -based boys became a staple in their hometown scene after years of playing the Georgetown club circuit and the 1998 release of their nearly budget-less debut album, The Colors of the Sound.

Two years after Colors, VACO released Townberg, the band’s best studio album to date, and began to expand their touring schedule to include more shows along the East Coast.

Within three short years between the release of Virginia Coalition’s second and third albums, the band gained enough grassroots support to sell out venues up and down the coast, including the boys’ hometown 9:30 Club, in D.C.

“You go into it with all these competing worries and then you get it right and you’re, like, ‘I can’t believe all these people are here to see us!’” Poliakoff said of playing sold out shows at the 9:30 Club, during a recent interview with The Marquee. “It took me a few times to get into the head-space where I can even remember playing it after.”

When VACO’s third album, Rock and Roll Party, was released on DCN/Koch Records, the band expanded the already sold-out touring schedule to include some dates out west. In fact, the boys played 250 shows from coast to coast in 2003 alone, thus becoming true-blue road warriors and giving themselves over to what Poliakoff calls the gypsy feeling of the road.

Even with total submission to the gypsy feeling, the road can be draining. “I have one word,” Poliakoff added after trying to define the source of Virginia Coalition’s seemingly endless energy. “It’s called espresso. I have my own machine, you better believe it. A couple of shots and you’ll be good.”

Touring has proven to be a huge part of Virginia Coalition’s existence, leaving little time for songwriting and studio sessions, so it’s no wonder their newest album is a two-disc recording of an incendiary live set. The boys, who admittedly aren’t always in control of where a song turns, find the energy of a song on stage and play off that, something that is impossible to do in a studio.

“This live record is it. Now we’ve finally made it and, shit, I’d make another tomorrow,” Poliakoff said. “You play your show and you have a record. Makes sense to me.”

“[We have] a ridiculous existence,” Poliakoff ended. “Absolutely, 100 percent beautifully ridiculous.”
- Marquee Magazine

"Live at the 9:30 Club"

Washington, D.C.-based rock quartet Virginia Coalition comes out of a distinct musical tradition, even if it's one that has rarely been recognized as such. Rock critics of the '90s were so dazzled by the grunge scene in Seattle, WA, that they managed to ignore an equally vibrant, if somewhat more geographically diverse scene that had grown up along the Eastern Seaboard at the same time. These were bands influenced by the improvisational groups of an earlier generation, notably the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band, but which also mixed in healthy doses of frat rock and beach music, along with rhythms borrowed from the Caribbean and Central America. Maybe no critic was willing to put in the hundreds of miles on I-95 it would have taken to connect the dots because this scene stretched from South Carolina to Vermont, and it included Blues Traveler, Dispatch, Hootie & the Blowfish, Bruce Hornsby & the Range, Dave Matthews Band, Phish, and Spin Doctors, among others. Some of these bands made very successful records, but the movement was largely performance based, another reason why critics, who like to sit home with their CDs and don't get out much, missed the connections. The best they could do was to lump some of these acts in with other groups from around the country that sounded nothing like them under the umbrella term "jam bands." As usual, however, audiences didn't need reviews and trend articles to know what they liked, and the music flourished. Of course, it also spawned more bands, and Virginia Coalition is prominent among the next wave of them. Naturally, a two-CD live album is the best audio representation of such an act, and that's what Live at the 9:30 Club is. As heard here, the band most closely resembles Dispatch, with its resonant, rapid-fire, rhythmic vocals and strong beats. But Dispatch didn't have keyboards, and when you add those, the Hornsby connection makes itself heard. Also, Virginia Coalition is less interested in Jamaican beats than in Latin ones, that is, when it isn't just rocking out. But the aspect that the group shares most with its East Coast boogie rock predecessors is its audience rapport. This is a band that makes a connection with its listeners, whether it's playing an original in a salsa style, covering Bill Withers' "Lean on Me," or turning to R&B. It could hold its own anywhere from a Boston club to a Myrtle Beach bar or a thousand venues in between. Can a berth at Bonnaroo be far behind? -

"Virginia Coalition "Live at the 9:30 Club""

Live music, when put on a CD, is always a thing of beauty. It's wonderful how the advancements in audio and recording technology have improved to allow an experience to be captured and relived at a later date. This recording of this show is a fine specimen of that. Virginia Coalition, who are know for their energetic live performances, rocked out at the legendary 9:30 club in their neck of the woods, and boy, did they bring it. The album, which is the entire show (not a collection of live greatest hits), actually contains many of VaCo's fan favorite songs. Two of their best songs bookend the entire album ('Walk To Work' and 'Jerry Jermaine'). Cover songs are always a staple in any band's live set, and Virginia Coalition did a fan-involved rendition of 'Lean On Me' and also included a selection of Police lyrics in 'Voyager 2'. The entire collection puts you right in the mix of things just as if you were actually there. And, for the many that don't get the chance to see Virginia Coalition in concert, this is an excellent replacement (but not a substitute) for the VaCo show itself! -


Colors of the Sound
Rock'n'Roll Party
Ok to Go
Live at the 9:30 Club


Feeling a bit camera shy


Although the DC area has traditionally been known as a musical no-man’s land, the four members of the Virginia Coalition feel it has largely been misunderstood. DC is all about the blending of many different styles of music - layered and textured with no restrictions - It’s rock with soul, hip-hop with hippie, R&B with bluegrass… and all of these styles are in Virginia Coalition’s blood.

Virginia Coalition is made up of four friends who met in the T.C. Williams High School music program. Their school was where the inspirational fact-based movie “Remember The Titans” took place. The movie documents the integration of black and white students on the school’s football team in 1971. “By the time we got to T.C. Williams [years later] there were 75 languages and 56 different countries represented.”

Every member of the band can play almost every instrument. They sing just as well as they play and every one of them writes. Their collaborative song-writing style creates the textured, sometimes eccentric, and always melodic songs that have allowed Virginia Coalition to stand out. Jarrett Nicolay comments, “everybody writes and plays most instruments; we are never at a loss for new material,” adding, “it is also great that we can all contribute to making the songs ‘stage ready.’”

Virginia Coalition’s live show is a larger-than-life party that has helped the band garner a rabid fan base who affectionately call them “VACO.” It was also Virginia Coalition’s extraordinary live show that got them signed to New York City based label bluhammock music. Based on a tip from a friend, the founders of the label came to a show to check them out. “Then they came back a second time, then they kept coming back until we got signed. That’s pretty much how everything has happened for us.“ Ottinger said. All the success VACO has is due to people passing the word around and saying good things. Word of mouth is how they sold 60,000 records and it’s how they won the 2003 and 2004 Washington Post Reader’s Choice Award for Best Local Band.

In the spring of 2004, VACO entered the studio with acclaimed producer Matt Wallace (Maroon 5, The Replacements, Train). “Matt was great at helping fine-tune the songs,” says Nicolay, “it is pretty obvious that he has made many awesome records. His input really made the whole process easy, and made the end result something we are all extremely proud of.”

The band recently released their first live album, recorded January 6, 2006 at the 9:30 Club in DC to the satisfaction of their rapidly growing fan base. They just completed their first headlining tour out West and continue to develop and attract new fans every step of the way.