all photos: Ben Droz
Writing about local music for half a decade or so now leaves one with a certain perspective on the life cycles of DC bands. Every year-there is someone buzzy, the next DC band to make it out from the district jungle and into the bright lights of universal acknowledgment (if not fame, per se). And every year, the DC music cheerleaders hearts get a little broken, because something just doesn’t quite click. This is not to say we’re pessimistic in our local music coverage (in fact, we’re ANYTHING BUT) but we do keep things slightly more in perspective these days.
BYT wrote about U.S. ROYALTY in 2008 when they did this sweet live session for us, and by 2009, we already felt the need to explain why YET AGAIN we were taking photos and typing about these guys. By 2010, the national buzz band machine had caught up with our enthusiasm and the band seemed on the brink of being “the next big thing” (or, at least, the next Kings of Leon reiteration). The band was tighter sounding that ever, the fashion press had caught on (Esquire named them the best dressed band of that year’s CMJ) and their record “Mirrors” led to a 9:30 club headlining show in 2011, an opening slot for Liz Phair, a prime spot at inaugural Sweetlife festival and am not even sure what else, but the signs were all there. And then, things just got a little quiet.
2012 came and starting going by, and about a year a go, as we started wondering what was next (if anything), they held a small show @ Montserrat House, debuting a few new songs, and then went quiet again. Then, this past weekend, in a quiet-but-confident way, they showed us their new album “BLUE SUNSHINE” at a DIY show at Atlas District’s Industry Gallery.
The night was hot, the space was sticky with both sweat and anticipation and a quick scan of the room showed that everyone who needed to be there was there: the music press, the forever fans, the curious first visitors-all packed into a one sold-out space waiting to hear what is next. And, we’re happy to say, they didn’t disappoint. If “MIRRORS” was US Royalty’s homage to Fleetwood Mac, with a side of Creedence (and wink to Leonard Cohen on a surprisingly sweet pared down “Blue Raincoat”), then “BLUE SUNSHINE” is the record where things get to land somewhere between MBV and Scandinavian (dark) dance rock, influence wise. The sound is big, loud, and more sophisticated that in the previous outing (some could say-maybe a little less wide audience friendly) and the band is as tight as ever (this description still stands: “John’s vocals are as strong and clear as ever (and the girl fans will be glad to know that the tambourine has not gone anywhere), and Jacob Michael and Luke Adams welcome the driving beats with both arms wide open, while Paul Thornley’s guitar is there, steady and confident, to remind you that you are very much still at a rock show.”). Levels of buzz may have subsided a little, but it is great to see these guys evolve and get more interesting in 2013. No one needed another Kings of Leon anyway.