TVD Live: The Grey Area at Strathmore, 2/10

Whoever keeps complaining about the demise of DC’s music scene should have stopped by the Mansion at Strathmore on Friday night for The Grey Area‘s release party for their new album 508.

Comprised of Jason Steinhauer on guitar and vocals and drummer Timothy Jones (TJ), Washington’s own The Grey Area manages to distinguish itself from the duos it pulls from – the likes of the Black Keys and the White Stripes – through its unique blend of power rock, blues and pop.

The band was playing as part of the Mansion at Strathmore’s Friday Night Eclectic series, advertised as “the hip party you would host – if you lived in a mansion with an art gallery, a cool band, and a bartender.”

The atmosphere on Friday lived up to the description. While the crowd didn’t quite fill the room, those that were lucky enough to be there moved to the front and unabashedly danced throughout the show. Before the band came on, I overheard acquaintances figuring out they had mutual friends, strangers remembering a party where they met years ago.

The house party comparisons stop there.

Walking onto a stage lined with oriental rugs and framed by wooden pillars, wearing button down shirts, the guys certainly looked like they were prepared for a typical DC event held in a mansion. But shortly into the set, they made it known that they were there to play, not simply perform.

It’s been said about The Grey Area before, but when these guys play, it truly does sound like more than two people. Their music more than filled up the small space.

Stripping into t-shirts after their first song, they launched into a rhythm-filled version of “You,” the third track on their new album. The on-stage chemistry between Jason and TJ was palpable. As the tempo of the song quickly increased, the guys couldn’t help but smile at each other – they knew they were killing it.

Many of their songs easily transition between blues, straight up rock, and pop. Jason’s smooth vocals seem most at home during the pop heavy songs. “Hurricane” started off with a bluesy, guitar-filled opening but transitioned into a livelier pop hook, letting the lyrics shine through.

Midway through the set, the band took a break to jam and let Jason rest his voice. Jason explained, “This is how a new song comes together, this will be a new song pretty soon.” Even without lyrics to hold on to, the crowd was into it, grateful to be a part of the song writing process.

Their set closed out with a series of faster paced songs. As they launched into “Ourselves,” you could hear someone shout “I love this song!” The catchy chorus made it clear why this track became their first music video.

The Grey Area doesn’t bring much by way of theatricality to their live shows. What they do bring is unending energy, Jason’s huge grin, and TJ’s snarl as he tears up the drums. And really, that’s all they needed Friday night.

Opening for the The Grey Area was another local DC group The 19th Street Band. In a room noticeably filled with family and friends, this trio played a combination of original material and classic covers ranging from bluegrass to celtic to country. With Caolaidhe on guitar, Meghan on fiddle, and Mike on upright bass, they were best when sticking to a familiar sound. Their version of Tom Petty’s “Last Dance with Mary Jane” was perhaps too far of a stretch.

But with each member contributing to vocals and Megan’s impressive fiddle skills, their upbeat renditions of “Wagon Wheel” and Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” were surprising highlights to my night. And the couple literally two-stepping behind me only added to the charm.

Photos: Steven VanSickle

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