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The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Up-and-coming D.C. artists soak up spotlight at Howard Theatre

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Chris Saccardo.

The Walking Sticks – with seamless interaction between bandmates and a blend of smooth vocals and atmospheric synthesizers – sounds like it has been playing together for more than 20 years.

But the dream-pop band that played Howard Theatre on Saturday night started just three years ago in Silver Spring, Md. The trio was one of 11 D.C.-area artists featured at Brightest Young Things’ emerging artists show, and it lit up the room with its upbeat notes, simple percussion track and polished production.

The four-hour sampler featured performances from up-and-coming artists like disco-influenced Coup Savage, screamo-rock band Loud Boyz and rapper Farmer Wes.

Jamie Finkelstein | Hatchet Photographer
The Walking Sticks perform at the Howard Theatre. Jamie Finkelstein | Hatchet Photographer

Supporting lead singer Chelsea Lee’s smooth, fiery Stevie Nicks-esque vocals, twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst added an electronic rock-pop component to the set through guitar and bass synthesizers.

Lee described the sound as “doing the synth thing without going dub-step.”

Originally focused on folk, The Walking Sticks entered the electronic arena a year ago after listening to Tame Impala and purchasing used synthesizers at garage sales. The group found its vocalist last year with the addition of Lee.

The band’s other influences include Chrvches and Haim, but on stage the band sounded like a spunky Radiohead. Though relaxed, there was a vibrant energy that got the audience going.

The group plans to record a sequel to its first 2013 EP, “Send the Night,” hoping that they will branch from their folk roots.

“Even though we’re doing dream-pop music now, walking in the woods is still nice,” band member Spencer Ernst said.

But not all of the performances kept the audience’s attention.

One stand-up comic, Adam Friedland, who was keeping the audience engaged during the breaks, stopped his act to ask if anyone was listening. He received the most applause only after bluntly saying, “This is a nightmare.”

The Walking Sticks will hit up several other local venues over the next few weeks, including the Kennedy Center, DC9 and Rock & Roll Hotel.

This post was updated March 3 at 5:03 p.m. to reflect the following correction: 
Due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the first EP was released in 2012. It was released in 2013.

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