Seattle-based indie/folk/rock musician Rocky Votolato is a realist. "Singer-songwriters are a dime a dozen," his press biography begins before going on to explain why Votolato is different. What it comes down to, the bio states, is sincerity, a quality that the impassioned guitarist-vocalist admires and demonstrates.

The Texas-born Votolato formed Waxwing, a guitar-propelled rock band, in 1996. Even before the musical style now called "emo" got its name, Waxwing was being compared to bands such as Sunny Day Real Estate and Jimmy Eat World. Having gone solo to create an outlet for his quieter efforts, Votolato's songs now get compared with those of Chris Carrabba (Dashboard Confessional), Paul Westerberg and Jeff Buckley, but he's no copycat.

Votolato's voice is a little gruff but gentle, and he moves easily between soft ballads about love and gritty rants about surviving the rat race. The songs are melodious and often poignant, but he can still shred his instrument, as one newspaper said, "with the staccato zeal of a punk rocker."

Votolato has collaborated with several fellow Seattle musicians, including players from Red Stars Theory, Sharks Keep Moving and the Blood Brothers; solo artist Rosie Thomas; and engineer Matt Bayles (Pearl Jam, Hayden). For his new CD, "Suicide Medicine," Votolato worked with the acclaimed Chris Walla (Death Cab for Cutie), who worked as engineer-producer and contributed guitar, bass and organ.

Also on the bill is the group Roy. The Tacoma-based quartet -- Brian Cook, Dave Verellen, Ben Verellen and Mike Cooper -- creates indie/folk/rock with a catchy beat and a sense of humor. After three self-released EPs, Roy signed with Fueled by Ramen Records, a small label with big credibility on the alternative/punk scene. The label is nice enough to provide streaming audio of Roy's debut full-length CD, "Big City Sin and Small Town Redemption," through the band's Web site,


Common Grounds is located at 3211 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, two blocks from the Clarendon Metro station. Admission is $7 and open to all ages. For more information, call 703-312-0427 or visit

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Rocky Votolato shows off his gentler side in his solo work.