Ask the average American how they picture the lives of young adults in the District of Columbia, and they will most likely tell you about Hill staffers and lobbyists. What the average American does not know about DC’s young adults, however, is that no matter how ambitious their political career goals may be, they are still twenty-somethings who like to shed their suits and ties at night to let loose after a long day of working to build a better society. Such was the scene at The Pocket, an intimate music venue in Truxton Circle, on Sunday, January 15th. After meeting up with friends and grabbing a drink from the bar (or getting Xs drawn on their hands), the crowd settled in for a Triple Crown of up-and-coming indie acts.
Alex Alavi & The Funky Breakfast kicked off the night, singing of the ooey-gooey emotions of teenage love in their songs “True Enough” and “I Wanna Give You Goosebumps.” Watching their performance felt like watching the first few scenes of a music biopic, where the band is just getting started rehearsing in garages and playing school dances right before they hit it big. The fact that they’re locals bolstered The Funky Breakfast’s fresh, organic feel. Before launching into a performance of “I’m Gonna Sell You to the Werewolves,” Alavi took a moment to explain that the Chevy Chase mentioned in the lyrics was a reference to his hometown in Maryland just outside of DC, not to the star of the Vacation movie franchise. The band’s infectious music, reminiscent of early-’60s garage rock, and overall charm should cement their status as rising stars in DC’s music scene.
The second attraction was Gooseberry, a Brooklyn-based trio who describes themselves as a “combination of indie rock and soul” in their Spotify artist bio. Continuing in the spirit of Alavi’s banter with the crowd, guitarist and vocalist Asa Daniels started off Gooseberry’s set by asking how the crowd was feeling tonight (as many artists do). After resounding cheers, Daniels said, “Great! Now we’re gonna play a song about panic attacks” before kicking off into the opening song “Panic!” Gooseberry’s secret weapon was the inclusion of a saxophonist to add richness and groove to their sound. The blending of a simultaneous saxophone solo and high-energy guitar shredding for “The Protagonist” made it a standout performance of the night. Throughout their set, Gooseberry emphasized that they wanted their set to be interactive between themselves and the crowd, with Daniels telling the audience to come closer to the front and even joking that they could all fit on the stage. One unique way that Gooseberry made the audience a true part of the show was by passing around a video camera for the concertgoers to record footage of their performance and putting a yearbook at the back of the venue for everyone to sign. Making fans feel appreciated and special is a surefire way to multiply their numbers, along with talent – something Gooseberry has in spades. Their set was confirmation that the band is headed from Brooklyn to great success.
The final act of the night was headliner Cab Ellis, on tour to promote their second album, The East Coast Hold On, released last May. Cab Ellis is an eight-member alternative rock outfit hailing from Brooklyn (hence the connection to Gooseberry), complete with three guitarists and a horn section. Their horn section includes a saxophone player like Gooseberry, along with a trombonist for an added dimension to their sound. Like the previous two acts, Cab Ellis has that right-on-the-edge-of-glory feeling. Their manager Griffin Bader (who is to thank for the free tickets!) told WGTB that they’re “doing the whole [tour] DIY–renting a van and driving 3,000 miles for 12 shows in two weeks!” Like with Alex Alavi & the Funky Breakfast, the audience feels like they’re watching the opening scenes of an epic music biopic, just before the group reaches their full potential. Cab Ellis’ songs are marked by their powerful, exploding choruses, and the live show’s energy was no exception. On two occasions, lead singer Connor Abeles sent the microphone stand flying into the crowd and even appeared to mimic a dog before singing “Dogsittin.’” Perhaps the best example of Cab Ellis’ dynamic, vibrant performances is in their rendition of “She Put That Man Over Me.” Closing out the night, Abeles not only came down into the middle of the crowd to sing most of the song, but crowd-surfed for the show’s frenetic final moments. Anyone who attends a Cab Ellis gig is sure to not soon forget the experience, and word-of-mouth about their performances alone certainly could propel the band far forward in their career.