When Adam Zuckerman and Anthony Phillips sat down to come up with a band name two years ago, they turned to Google. They came up with Elixir of Jade.
"It’s an immortality serum," Zuckerman explained. "If you drink it, you can live forever."
The Sterling band is made up of four 19-year-old Park View and Potomac Falls high-school graduates: Ben Spear on drums, Anthony Phillips and Adam Zuckerman on guitar and vocals, and Manny Negron on bass. Spears, Phillips and Zuckerman have been together for two years. Negron joined the band in December. Since then the foursome has been plugging away in Spear’s basement working on lyrics and chords to songs like "Don’t Worry Baby, I’ve Got Connections" and "The Jocks Were Never Cool Enough."
"We’re raw, deep, indie rock, power pop, with an edge," Zuckerman smiled.
Negron described the band as Emo, an abbreviation for "emotionally-driven hard-core punk," associated with bands like Jimmy Eat World, Dashboard Confessional and My Chemical Romance.
"One fan described us as ‘electrifying,’" he added.
ON SATURDAY morning, Spear woke up to load his family’s van with brand new guitar strings, shiny symbols, heavy amps and brightly colored chords. Spears packed up the van for a small venue in Woodbridge.
"This will be good practice for next Saturday," Spear said.
On Saturday, June 25, the indie-rock band will compete in one of the final rounds of Emergenza Music Festival, a competition between more than 30,000 "up-and-coming" musicians and 6,000 bands in 100 European cities and 21 North American cities, including Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, Montreal and Quebec City.
In January, Elixir of Jade joined the Emergenza Music Festival at the Velvet Lounge in Washington, D.C. They played a 25-minute set, packed with their best songs, for a room full of teens. They competed against seven other bands. The audience selected the top-four bands to move on to second round. Elixir of Jade received the most votes.
Over the next five months, Phillips and Zuckerman traveled from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., to Spear’s Cascades basement to practice old tunes and write new music.
In May, Spear packed the van to travel to the District’s DC9 Nightclub. The band played a 25-minute set and once again, they came out on top. They advanced to the third round at the legendary 9:30 Club, home to the District’s alternative music scene.
"We just couldn’t believe we’d be playing there in a couple of weeks," Phillips said. "Some of our favorite bands, our heroes, have played on that stage."
ON SATURDAY, June 25, at 8 p.m., Elixir of Jade has 20 minutes to play its heart out.
Over the next week, the band plans to practice their set.
"Before, we just came out and played our songs the best we could," Spear said. "Now, we have to give the audience a show.
Normally, Phillips said the band wears jeans and T-shirts, but on Saturday, they’re planning to dress to impress the audience.
"It’s going to be so cool just to play on that stage. To sit in that dressing room where some of my idols get ready," Phillips said. "Oh yeah!"
If the Emergenza Music Festival judges and audience members advance the group, they will go on to play a venue in Philadelphia. The winner of that competition moves on to the United States finals in New York, where the winner of that competition will compete for the title of "Best Band on the Planet" in Rothenberg, Germany, later this summer. The top prize is a sponsored tour, professional production of a compact disc and musical instruments and technical gear for the band.
As for the future, the band members agreed they would like to be anywhere but Sterling.
"We want to be signed to a record label and on tour somewhere," Phillips said, dressed in a Trader Joe’s Specialty Grocery Store T-shirt. "Not here. Now, I have to run to work."
The 19-year-old raced to work at the grocery store for a few hours before the hour-long drive to Woodbridge with his band mates.