Isaac Slade leans back in a leather chair in the green room at Georgetown’s Gypsy Sally’s, his floral shirt lightly wrinkled and his black Nike-clad feet propped up on a wooden chest.

But instead of discussing his past life as the frontman for the hit band the Fray, he’s talking politics. This is Washington, after all.

Music and politics aren’t all that different, according to Slade.

The musician was at the Georgetown joint Monday night to play a campaign event for Neal Simon, an independent Senate candidate from Maryland.

“It reminds me a lot of the onstage and backstage disparity of the entertainment industry,” Slade said, referring to how it feels to go from following politics in his hometown of Denver to being thrown right into the midst of it at a political fundraiser in Washington. “I’m watching from the bleachers in Denver.”

The rock star and the politico make an unusual pairing from an outside perspective, but their ideologies sync up. Both are moderate independents who view party politics as the downfall of our system.


“We need leaders who authentically care more about our country and their constituents than one party winning,” Simon said.

And Slade became involved with a band of independents in his home state of Colorado called Unite America.

“I sort of fell in with these crazy moderate, centrist folks that are holed up in Denver,” Slade said. “We all hang out.” The group held an event at Slade’s house last year, where Simon and Slade met, but Monday was the first time they partnered.

“This is our debutante ball tonight,” Slade joked. It also happened to be the first time Slade played a solo show, the promise of which helped to attract the crowd of younger voters whom Simon hoped to target with the event.


“The way [young people are] reacting to our government right now is they don’t want anything to do with it,” Simon said. “One of the things I need to do as a candidate is to inspire all those people in the middle to care enough, to want to get involved.”


His plan seemed to work: A contingency of boys donning fraternity letters, with X’s on their hands denoting that they weren’t old enough to legally drink, showed face.

Nothing about the event felt like a traditional political rally — except maybe the campaign signs, but even those feel much less stuffy when they’re propped up against a drum set on top of a vintage van that’s parked inside a bar. And that’s exactly the kind of unique vibe Simon was aiming for.

“I am not a traditional candidate,” Simon said. “I’m trying to do the opposite of what the two parties do. I want to be the senator that goes on Fox and CNN and says the exact same things on both.”