Crystal Casino Band at the Atlantis is a Love Letter to the District

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Creating an ambience similar to that of a bustling indie house show, The Atlantis, one of DC’s more intimate concert venues, was the perfect venue for the Crystal Casino Band’s final show of 2023. Hordes of disillusioned post-grads and college students teemed throughout the venue, many of them fresh off the metro from shifts at their corporate jobs. A feeling of excited restlessness filled the air as the student debt-ridden, disillusioned twenty-somethings waited to immerse themselves in the politically charged and DC-inspired music of the Crystal Casino Band. 

Hailing from the DC area and consisting of George Washington graduates, The Crystal Casino Band finished off a year of sporadic touring following the release of their album “Maryland House,” right in their hometown. With influences like The Strokes, Wilco, and Wallows, the band’s music sounds like it should act as the soundtrack for a coming-of-age movie. The Atlantis invokes such a cinematic feel, due to its small size and intimate nature.

The band, consisting of lead singer-guitarist Pete Stevens, guitarist Jarrod Hendricks, drummer Joey Mamlin, and bassist Jordan Mullaney began the show with the explosive “Boys and Girls.” Stevens and Hendricks’ tight vocals boosted the already high energy present at the venue. To the crowd’s delight, Stevens announced that the band, in honor of performing at their hometown, would be performing three unreleased songs.

The explosive energy continue as the band continued playing songs from their discography, rotating between rock anthems and emotional ballads. “100 Degrees” acted as a highlight of the show, with Hendricks humorously stating, “It’s getting hot in here… it feels like 100 degrees,” acknowledging the corniness of the song’s introduction. The band’s performance navigated the audience through a series of emotions – segueing between indie-rock bangers, melancholic pieces, and covers of Dr. Dog and Wham!.

In addition, the concert served as an indie-rock narrative of life as a young person in DC. The charged “Twenty-something Socialist” acted as one of the highlights of the concert as Stevens extended the guitar portions before its explosive bridge, captivating an already politically involved audience. “Curfew,” one of the band’s slower songs, chronicled post-January 6th life in the District as the audience somberly sang along reflecting on the tense political climate.

Beyond the band’s lyrical strength and obvious talent, their playful stage presence breaks down barriers between performer and that of the audience, resulting in their cult-like following. Hendricks often waved and made eye contact with members of the crowd, while Stevens approached the barricades to sing directly to the audience. The band’s charm lies in this ability, fostering a connection based on the shared experiences of disillusionment with modern living and a love of the District. 

The Crystal Casino Band’s antics throughout the show further added to their charm – whether it be singing an overly-earnest indie-rock cover of Wham!’s “Last Christmas” or parading around the stage in Garfield shirts. The crowd’s energy emphasized the band’s status as a local band, with a cult-like following chanting the first names of members. 

The encore functioned as the zenith of the concert, as the band performed some of their most popular songs “Potomac,” and “Waste My Time.” “Potomac,” the band’s love letter to DC, quieted the crowd as Davidson sang the song with a quiet, but powerful intensity. “Waste My Time,” the show’s closer, was more emotionally charged as the audience angrily belted the song’s lyrics chronicling the frustrations of situationships.

Crystal Casino Band’s performance at The Atlantis showcased the band’s masterful versatility, as the group seamlessly rotated between the binaries of silly and serious, high-energy rock and emotional ballads, technically impressive guitar solos and prancing around the stage in Garfield sweaters. While the band’s members described their musical endeavors as the “best part-time job,” it’s clear that their potential extends far beyond this description.

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