Sure, you can download music alone at the computer, but don't tell a music junkie that online tune shopping has the same thrill as a fully stocked record store with a knowledgeable staff and new discoveries on every shelf. The Tower Records chain is one entertainment outlet that understands the concept. The Tysons Corner branch has been hosting a "September to Remember," with giveaways, listening parties and in-store performances to make the process ever more fun.

On Tuesday, the schedule offers its live highlight -- a free performance by much-beloved local band Virginia Coalition. The group, not coincidentally, is releasing its newest CD, "OK to Go," that day, a potential breakthrough to the big time produced by Matt Wallace (Train, Maroon 5, Blues Traveler). Here's a chance to buy a copy as it hits the streets, hear a short set of tunes in a casual, all-ages setting and perhaps have the CD signed by the band members themselves.

Count on grooving along with many personal friends of Vaco (as fans call the band), which consists of native sons of Northern Virginia. Andrew Wonder, Paul Ottinger, Jarrett Nicolay and John Patrick met back in the late 1980s when the four took part in the music program at T.C. Williams High School. They obviously took their homework seriously.

Virginia Coalition is that rare rock quartet in which all four members write songs, and each plays numerous instruments. The group's first CD, "The Colors of the Sound," created some local buzz in 1998, and 2000's "Townburg" helped draw fans from other parts of the East Coast and the Midwest. The group was soon selling out shows at cool venues such as the District's 9:30 Club, Chicago's House of Blues and New York's Irving Plaza. The third Vaco album, "Rock & Roll Party," came out in January 2003, a year in which the band played 250 shows nationally.

Taking inspiration from the D.C. area's wide range of musical sounds -- rock, soul, hip-hop, R&B, go-go, blues, even a touch of bluegrass -- Virginia Coalition creates a bouncing blend that its press kit calls "Bumpin' Fresh Soul Rock."

If you can't get enough Vaco in one shot, there's a full concert planned for Oct. 2 at the 9:30 Club (but you'll have to pay for that one). You can also catch up with the band's recent doings and hear song samples at


The Tysons Corner Tower Records store is at 8389 Leesburg Pike (Route 7) in Vienna. The show is open to all ages. The store's phone number is 703-893-1622.

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The members of Virginia Coalition, from left, are Jarrett Nicolay, John Patrick, Andrew Wonder and Paul Ottinger. The four met at T.C. Williams High School.