VIENNA, Va., January 8, 2013 –The most noticeable thing about A Rocket to the Moon’s recent show at Jammin’ Java didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the band—at least not directly. There was an unusual level of anticipation for the band’s appearance, especially for a crowd that wasn’t particularly large. Although this preliminary excitement might not have been particularly surprising to a band like them, their fan base at the venue was creating an abnormally large buzz nonetheless.
The reason for this has a lot to do with the kind of following A Rocket to the Moon has been tapping into—a demographic that’s primarily female, ranging from the high school set to the early college years. These fans and the music the band plays are enduringly consistent with one another. So none of it surprising to true believers when A Rocket to the Moon start their set. They’re as straight up pop/rock as a band can get, and their audience just eats up every minute of their act.
Even the original, intended trajectory of A Rocket to the Moon was likely to hit this mark, though. A Rocket to the Moon was initially the brainchild of front man Nick Santino. The band was supposed to be his own solo singer/songwriter project. But soon after forming a touring band to perform the songs Santino had written, A Rocket to the Moon turned into a full-fledged, actual band. Starting with guitarist and co-primary songwriter Justin Richards, the band was filled out quickly with Eric Halvorsen on bass and Andrew Cook on drums.
Even taking their origins into account, along with the fact that Santino is still very much the face of the band, it’s not difficult to look beyond the band’s origins and its current presence.
It’s not all that common for a solo project to morph into a band; but even when it does – think Dashboard Confessional – it generally takes the shape of the front man who more than likely, unintentionally or not, dominates the attention of the band. But this is never the case with A Rocket to the Moon. A lot of this has to do with the unassuming nature of Santino, himself.
Despite being an engaging front man, Santino doesn’t quite harbor enough hidden neuroses to insist that the spotlight shine exclusively on him every moment the band’s on stage. It’s not that he’s shy. But the way he presents himself demands that the audience focus on the whole band rather than just him. He communicates this through his simple twists and nods, and the subtle movements he makes around the stage. His presence and body language are further amplified by both Richards and Halvorsen, who themselves possess their own unique quirks that are frequently in evidence when they are playing as well.
Of course, all this emphasis on stage presence and personality might seem to indicate that it’s a distraction from the quality of the band’s actual performance, or that it’s more important that the audience focus on the band members at all times.
Luckily that’s not the case. There’s a tangible, compelling reason the DC area audience and others have latched on to A Rocket to the Moon: this is a band that plays seriously catchy yet surprisingly unobtrusive pop/rock. It’s a clean and emotionally honest approach to the craft, resulting in rock with heavy pop overtones, seasoned judiciously with the slightest tinge of alt-country. The band cranks out the type of music that live audiences, especially those of a certain age, can relate to. That’s primarily because it feels as if Santino is specifically singing to the shared life experiences of its fans and captures that specific stage of growing up as well as anyone in the business. Even when they’re briefly covering something like Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy”—which a majority of the audience simply didn’t get—they were still able to appropriate it in such a way to keep everyone engaged.
The audience A Rocket to the Moon has essentially courted over the years might not be the kind of fan base that sticks around for the long run. But if the band continues to play with their heart on their sleeve, it will open them up for much greater things in the future. And at the very least, nearly any cohort of teenage girls will look back some day on the recent show at Jammin’ Java with fondness, no matter what their attachment to A Rocket to the Moon might be in the future.
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