Virginia Coalition: Bringing it home to Alexandria

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When the members of Alexandrias own Virginia Coalition step onto the stage at the Red Cross Waterfront Festival in Oronoco Park this weekend, you might notice just a little extra skip in their step.

Sure, its partly because these T.C. Williams grads will be back home and playing in front of family and friends on the familiar banks of the Potomac.

But that extra wide grin on Andy, Paul and Jarretts faces could also be because this trio from our neck of the woods has exploded onto the mainstream music scene of late, thanks to the uncharacteristically accessible tunes and pop hooks off their critically lauded new CD, Home Next Year.

Radio stations across the country have been playing the cant-get-it-out-of-my-head single Sing Along  in growing numbers, and a star-studded video of the song is getting great response on You Tube and beyond. The songs so catchy, I swear, Im humming it right now.

The reaction to the new material has been profoundly positive, VACO lead singer/guitarist Andy Poliakoff told me last week from his Old Town townhouse. To step on stage out in Chicago or L.A. and have people singing the words back to these songs, its been simply amazing. Its definitely a wonderful accomplishment, dont know if its the top of Everest, but its definitely Stage Two of base camp, or something like that.

To longtime fans of VACO, the words accessibility and hits arent exactly what theyre used to from these guys. In the past they have lived by the eclecticism of their live shows, which were prone to long funk and even go-go infused jams. Now, songwriting and emotion are the key.

Poliakoff said theyve had these songs in them since they were putzing around Old Town as teens.

Weve been friends for years, damn, Ive known Paul since the seventh grade, Poliakoff continues. When we started making music we were writing a lot of deeply emotional songs, but were mainly focused on performing. But it just wasnt sustaining us, we were emotionally stagnant. We felt we had so much to say that you cant say with conga solos.

For VACO, its clear that the jam thing was fun, but something was missing. We love the time that weve spent just being rapturously irreverent, but we were looking at ourselves and asking, Just who are we? We had never really made use of the intense connection between each other, before this album, Poliakoff said. Emotionally speaking, its like going on a hike into the wilderness. Now here we are, and weve traded a lot of the jamming and antics for some really emotional songs with beautiful harmonies and melodies. Those songs can turn heads, too.

And with all this recent success, touring the country with a hit single and hot album, these local boys still love the little corner of Virginia by the river where they were raised.  You could say, if you want to hear what Alexandria has helped to shape and create musically, then come watch us. But really, its just that we love where were from, Poliakoff said. We absolutely love Alexandria. And were gonna be in a phenomenally good mood down there on the waterfront.

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