album reviews

Virginia Coalition
Live at the 9:30 Club
Bluhammock Music (2006)

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' roll adoration that VaCo surely dreamed about in high school.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 8 September 2006, Page WE06
.: Live at the 9:30 Club on