The down-to-earth quartette, the Virginia Coalition – comprised of Andrew Poliakoff, Paul Ottinger, Jarrett Nicolay and John Patrick – illustrated their boys-having-fun attitude at their show at the Water Street Music Hall on Jan. 29. Through their constant dance and free-spirited nature, VACO prepared the audience well for the headlining roots raggae band John Brown’s Body.Their 12 song set, played before an audience that was for the most part unfamiliar with their music, nevertheless prepared the crowd for the evening’s main event.
Known for their energetic live show, the band certainly delivered. VACO has been playing together since attending middle school in the 1980s and obviously still enjoy it, as evidenced through their live show, which is laced with infectious irreverence that spread quickly to the audience.
In just 45 minutes, they played everything from keyboard to congas and did so with electrifying vigor – so much vigor, in fact, that keyboard player Paul Ottinger spent a good portion of the show several feet in the air. His enthusiasm was contagious.
The sound of the band reflects their Alexandria, Va. roots – a little bit of reggae, a little bit of rock, a little bit of soul and a little bit of bluegrass. They played songs from all four of their albums, providing something for everyone at the show.
“Lonely Cowboy,” for example, starts out rock and segues into something slightly softer. “Walk to Work,” an ode to being too broke to fix your car and having too much living to do, starts off big and keeps the energy coming, moving the previously still crowd to dance along to the music.
“Nicole’s Song,” an old crowd favorite off their first album, “The Colors of the Sound,” is a low-key ballad that still manages to retain the verve of the group’s peppier songs. The band even managed to include a successful callback section of the type more often seen among hip-hop and rap artists. This staple of their set reflects the multitude of influences present in the band’s repertoire.
While the band played crowd-pleasers with high energy, the low vocals made the lyrics difficult to distinguish from the rest of the music. In addition, because the majority of the audience was unfamiliar with the music, the enthusiasm exuded on stage was not as well-received by the audience as potentially possible.
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