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all words: Emilia McManus
all photos: Shauna Alexander

I didn’t have a clue what to expect at this concert; I’d seen US Royalty at the Sweetlife festival in May, but that was a whole different ballgame. The weather had been cold and wet, and I’m pretty sure the audience had signed a secret no-dancing pact. Suffice to say, the atmosphere was very very different at the 9:30 club.

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The night kicked off with another team of BYT Favorites True Womanhood, composed of three skinny indie dudes in even skinnier jeans. What’s not to like? Although some of their dance moves seemed forced and awkward, the band played very well and the crowd was definitely into it. They acted a bit shocked to be there (their stage banter primarily consisted of “Wow, we’re at the 9:30 Club. This is fucking awesome!”) but they played good music and generally put on a very enjoyable show.

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I wish I could just write the notes I texted myself during Birdlips’ set and leave it at that (“this show = a DC hipster’s wet dream” and “whistling + harmonizing! at the same time! AHHHHH”) but there is, unfortunately, more to be said. Maybe it was just where I was standing, but it didn’t seem like Birdlips managed to engage the crowd that well. There were times when the chit-chat from the audience actually overwhelmed the sounds from the stage. It just seemed like most of the music was better-suited for headphones on a rainy afternoon than a club of tipsy, energetic people on a Friday night. However, everything came together for the last two songs, which were both definite highlights.

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I have a working hypothesis (that will undoubtedly morph into a doctoral thesis later in life) that a good concert is at least 50% atmosphere as well as 50% talent/performance of the band. US Royalty was a full 100%.

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If Mick Jagger and Julian Casablancas circa Letterman appearance had a lovechild, it would be lead singer John Thornley. It was a high energy set, with the audience dancing and singing along from open to close.

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The excitement was palpable from the opening song (“Mirrors”/”Hollywood Hollows”) to the very last (crowd favorite, “Equestrian”). There’s just something special about dancing in a room packed with people who are so enthusiastic about a band that they’re screaming lyrics and uncontrollably sloshing beer down your top. It really says something when a band can draw that out of a crowd.

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It was clear that the 9:30 Club was full of US Royalty diehards; when they mentioned they’d be playing a few songs off their debut EP, the audience went crazy. Although there were a few glitches with the mics, US Royalty powered through the issues and put on a fantastic show. If you didn’t catch them this time, keep an eye out for their next gig– it’s absolutely worth it.

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