[Originally for DC Music Download on 13 October 2012]
A full, diverse menu of rock ‘n’ roll talent was on display Saturday night at LivingSocial’s brick-and-mortar embodiment, 918 F Street.
Openers The Young Rapids played through a set of creative, experimental, and sprawling tunes that were more cerebral than emotive. Vocals were buried beneath layers of effects. Knobs were twiddled as much as guitars were played. The music didn’t follow any predictable pattern or rules of songcraft. Songs that began by vaguely resembling pop would suddenly burst into Sonic Youth style feedback freakouts. The unpredictability made for an exciting set.
In contrast, U.S. Royalty charged through a tight,visceral collection of well-crafted songs propelled by raw power. Most numbers featured powerful vocal harmonies soaring above a Zeppelinesque roar. Frontman John Thornley sang with clarity and confidence, and his ability to switch from singing tender melodies to issuing guttural screams was impressive. He’s a livewire, too. At one point I thought Thornley might jump over the second floor barrier and down onto the bar below. His energetic movement made the show thrilling.
The pastoral, uplifting “Equestrian” was clearly the crowd’s favorite – it drew the loudest applause and the audience sang along with every word. However, it was one new song, “I Love The Country Until I Miss the City,” that best showed U.S. Royalty’s full range of talent. It began as a slow-burner, with a lovely melody, and built until the band erupted in a tidal wave of riffage behind Taylor as he voiced his full-throated passion for the city life.
Hopefully the rest of U.S. Royalty’s new material will be as engaging. Given how talented they are, it’s not too much to hope for.
The Young Rapids
Reviewed by: Gregory Ayers
Photos by: Khamp Sykhammountry