“Hey Guys, uh, we’re Eastern Sea, and we’re just trying to keep up with the Kopecky’s” said lead singer Matt Hines before the five Austintonians poured into their set at DC9 last night. They look like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s in outfit, and sound like a mix of Simon & Garfunkel and a toned down Doc Watson with complex melodic vocals and overlapping, plucky guitar. The headliners tonight were the Kopecky Family Band, but in my opinion, The Eastern Sea were the ones who really showed up.

“The Kopecky family band is pretty up-tempo and fast paced for the folk genre, and we’re just trying to keep up with them. Knowing the audience likely came for them and not us, we’ve been trying to push the progressive elements of our music a little further on this tour.” The Eastern Sea did exactly that during “The Lie.” Energetic but still tranquil, sweet but still brisk, this song captures you. They played this hand clapping track 3 songs in, after which point the audience clearly took notice. The tiny room filled up quickly as the folks having drinks downstairs before The Kopecky Family Band played headed up to see who these guys were.

This isn’t The Eastern Sea’s first time in DC; they were here in August during their first of two tours in less than nine months. Last summer they played the 450 capacity venue, The Hamilton, which, while beautiful, was far too large for a band which has only produced two records in three years and is still trying to gain a following. The room felt (and was, sort-of) empty last year. With a creaky floor at full capacity, the 200 person room at DC9 was perfect for their sound. “We feel at home in smaller venues. We get to physically be closer with the audience and the sound quality is much better for a band with our level of production quality right now” said lead vocalist Matt Hines. His high, smooth voice breaks your heart and gives you hope at the same time. Backed by the folky, dynamic group behind him, The Eastern Sea’s set at DC9 held back just enough to keep the vibe in the room calm and engaged while still shelling out enough energy to command a sea of bobbing heads.

If you want some new tunes to match the winter weather, check out The Eastern Sea’s Plague on Spotify, you won’t be disappointed.