The intimate music venue is home to two full-service bars with 16 craft beers on tap (including many local favorite breweries such as DC Brau and Right Proper), a full menu (complete with excellent pizza), and an intimate seating area on the bottom level for those who prefer their live music in the background or want to grab a bite before the bands take the stage.
In addition to hosting DCMD’s celebration, Union Stage is also partnered with other local live music enterprises such as Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House and All Good Presents to bring local and national talent to their stage. This particular show brought together four of DC’s most promising new artists.
OG Lullabies captivated audiences with compelling, otherworldy, string-driven dream pop in the vein of Télépopmusik or Little Dragon before her. Fielder’s twinkly, ethereal beats could easily soundtrack a video game or indie movie montage involving a field (no pun intended) of flowers. And while it’s easy to hear the debt that Nag Champa owes their predecessors on the DC music scene for the smooth, subtle go-go and funk influence on their tracks, their raw energy and command of the stage is clearly all their own.
The standout artist of the night, pop trio SHAED, is clearly headed for life beyond the growing local music circuit. Singer Chelsea Lee’s commanding vocals draw comparison to Bishop Briggs (whom they opened for this past year), London Grammar and even Florence Welch at times (yes, it’s that powerful).
What makes them stand out is the tight, well-rounded sounds of twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst, who provide danceable beats and guitar hooks with just the right nod to 80s nostalgia that appeals to fans of almost any form of pop. Their lyrics deal with everything from complicated hookups, separation from those you love and fighting the good fight in times of political turmoil.
At Saturday night’s show, they played their well-loved material, a new track titled “Trampoline” and even covered R. Kelly’s “Ignition,” after which Lee quipped, “Sorry, Grandma!” Their chemistry as a group is palpable no matter how far back in the venue you stand. Even those not familiar with the group could be heard whispering, “They’re crushing it,” and were seen dancing well into the early morning hours of the show.
Later that night, SHAED posted a sweet video on their Instagram story that showed them hugging in the lobby of the venue, with a caption thanking their DC fans for the love and support shown at the sold-out show. While they are on the fast track to life beyond the local stage (including opening for pop rock powerhouses X Ambassadors on a national tour this spring), it’s obvious that the trio will never forget their roots or the place they’ve rightfully earned for themselves here at home.
Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; 877-987-6487; www.unionstage.com