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Broke Royals, October 28, 2022

Broke Royals, October 28, 2022
November 15, 2022 11:36AM
Broke Royals
Songbyrd, October 28, 2022

I've written before about the DC area “premium rock & roll” revivalists Broke Royals. I even attended their in-store gig at Byrdland Records, the record store that started a label for the purposes of releasing their latest, Local Support, co-produced by the inescapable Bartees Strange.

They did their official record release album on October 28, 2022, at the sister club Songbyrd, in a show that was clearly geared for the pre-Halloween crowd.

Given the relative roughness of their in-store gig at Byrdland a few months ago, I was impressed with how smooth and polished the band was in front of a proper club audience. Philip Basnight clearly enjoyed being on a stage for the first time since the start of the pandemic, accompanied by his wife Rebecca Silverstein on keyboards, a relatively recent addition to the band. And while Basnight’s idolization of Bruce Springsteen is both obvious and unapologetic, the show spotlighted the band’s further artistic forebears like Peter Buck’s tuneful jangle of mid-80s R.E.M. and the heartfelt empathy of John Mellencamp. (By coincidence there is some renewed interest in the R.E.M./Mellencamp overlap of that era spearheaded by producer Don Gehman.) In less capable hands, this could result in a generic Hootie and the Blowfish pastiche, but Broke Royals are too clever and informed to resort to cliché. The band members met at William & Mary and mostly work in policy and nonprofit work when not rocking out.

The Songbyrd set was heavy on Local Support with some older tunes from the Broke Royals debut and their pre-pandemic Saint Luxury. The earlier albums had been extremely polished and Local Support was billed as a bit more back-to-basics, but in concert, it was all of a piece: Upbeat, sentimental, refreshingly unironic pop-rock with nods to the 80s like Okkervil River’s Silver Gymnasium record.

Of course, in keeping with the Halloween schedule, the band needed to end with a thematically linked song. Their version of Warren Zevon “Werewolves of London” with the rolling piano lines of Silverstein was neither shocking nor was it revelatory, but everyone enjoyed it. Myself included.

Opener Cinema Hearts has gotten a lot of recent media attention for the overriding theme of their work, which is Caroline Weinroth’s experience in organized beauty pageants. The recent Cinema Hearts EP, “Your Ideal,” plays on the theme song to the Miss America pageant and idealized visions of femininity. Weinroth, wearing a Phantom of the Opera-styled facemask (definitely not a COVID precaution), played electric guitar and interspersed her songs with sarcastic, biting remarks about beauty and body image. While the songs had their strengths the subject matter was a bit overly repetitive after awhile, like if Hole’s entire repertoire was just “Doll Parts” in four different musical modes.
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