After several years of playing in area clubs, the Essentials played their first-ever gig at d.c. space Saturday night. While the musicians are technically proficient, what makes the local pop quintet special are the warm, unassuming relationship they've built with their audience and the singing of Deeme Katson. Reminiscent of a zaftig Liza Minnelli, she brings an undeniable vitality to the band.
Saturday night, the group started out strong, opening with a nearly unrecognizable synth-pop rendition of the Buzzcocks' "Ever Fallen in Love." Although the set lagged a little midway, the show could have been billed as "the night of the stockinged feet" as women kicked off their shoes to dance to contagious numbers such as "Upside Down" and "Feel This Way."
From the ska-influenced "Anti-War" to the power-popped "Boom Boom Bam," the Essentials' material is firmly rooted in new-wavish pop, perhaps too much so. Even their originals are so full of catchy hooks and familiar riffs that anyone versed in Top 40 radio might experience de'ja` vu. Very little of Saturday night's set was really original or inspired, but the group performed with enough e'lan that it didn't matter at all.