Saturday night’s a good time to party, especially when a local band has a happy homecoming after a short tour with another band that’s become good friends. Such was the case last week when Northern Virginia’s own RDGLDGRN headlined its first Jammin Java show with Hamilton, Ontario’s Arkells opening.
Though RDGLDGRN has yet to officially release any music, the Herndon, VA-based trio has a buzz going in anticipation of its first EP, due for release next month. The excitement began when the three friends, who used to play in a quartet called The One Five, posted a music video online in late 2011 for a song called “I Love Lamp.”
That catchphrase from the popular “Anchorman” film doesn’t even appear in the lyrics. But in a clever bit of bait-and-switch, the charming low-budget music video has attracted over 125,00 views with an infectiously fun mix of hip-hop and alternative rock that has become RDGLDGRN’s musical calling card.
“I Love Lamp” also attracted the attention of major record labels (the trio signed with Fairfax/Universal/Republic) led to a management deal with Matt Watts (guitarist for pop/punk favorites The Starting Line), studio time with producer/engineer Kevin Augunas (Cold War Kids, Delta Spirit, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros) and a guest appearance by Foo Fighters’ leader and local rock god/good guy Dave Grohl on drums throughout the sessions.
No, Grohl didn’t drum at the Jammin Java show but he probably would have enjoyed the scene. Arkells, a young Canadian quintet with a soulful, R&B edge to its guitar rock, opened with a set drawn heavily from its second album, 2011’s “Michigan Left.”
Front man/guitarist Max Kerman has a Springsteen-like hard-working guy’s charm, encouraging a sense of community that bonds the audience to the dexterous band. The group’s love-in-tough-times songbook includes two songs in particular – “Kiss Cam” and “Whistleblower” – that showed its ability to move from bruised romance to righteous ferocity.
Kerman also spoke fondly of touring with the guys in RDGLDGRN and explained how their assumed names (they simply go by the colors they wear – Red, Gold and Green) made it easy to remember who’s who. He also thanked Green especially, “for letting us use his room.” (Give it a moment; you’ll get it.)
As if to prove the good vibes between the groups, Arkells invited RDGLDGRN to come onstage for a stirring set closer, a cover of Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson,” that had the lead singers of both bands trading verses while the audience happily added in repeated shouts of “Wooooooo!” at the appropriate spot in the chorus.
That giddy spirit gained new momentum when RDGLDGRN took to the stage after the break, glad-handing family and friends at the front of the stage and exchanging teasing shout-outs with those farther back.
Since Dave Grohl obviously has other commitments, the trio has a touring drummer known as Arejay (at least it’s not a color) who’s a fine fit to the band’s high-energy, sometimes joking, always joyful style. Since the group has spent much of its non-studio time playing locally, the crowd knew most of the material, singing along and even line dancing to a step of Green’s creation.
The Jammin Java show was the last night of a short tour shared by RDGLDGRN and Arkells and clearly it had been a fun road trip for both. Capping off the show, and the tour, RDGLDGRN invited Arkells’ leader Kerman out for one last blowout – an impromptu version of “I Love Lamp” that left the crowd laughing as well as cheering in a fine ending to the Saturday celebration.
RDGLDGRN will be appearing on 41 dates of this year’s Warped Tour, and Arkells are coming back to the DC area March 7 to play at U Street Music Hall, so anyone who missed this particular party will have another chance to join in.
[Full disclosure: The musician known as Gold grew up in the Reston neighborhood where I live.]
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