How does the DC-based rock group U.S. Royalty describe its sound? "We play music that sways from gritty to pretty," says frontman John Thornley.
Thornley (vocals/piano), his brother Paul (guitar), Jacob Michael (bass), and Luke Adams (drums) formed the group in 2008. They started out practicing in an abandoned trailer. Now they're playing clubs and festivals all over the country; have been featured in Esquire, Spin, and the New York Times; and made fashion news through their association with the Swedish label Gant Rugger. They were one of two local bands chosen to play at the Sweetlife Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion earlier this year, opening for the Strokes. U.S. Royalty's influences range from "blues to garage to psych to pop," says John Thornley. For its first album, Mirrors, the group used instruments ranging from bongos to Wurlitzer organ to pedal steel guitar.
The band will be in New York City for the CMJ music and film festival this month and is touring the East Coast in the fall. Look for a homecoming at DC's 9:30 Club.
Washingtonians will see some of their favorite paintings very differently when the French galleries in the National Gallery of Art's West Building reopen in January. Creating exhibits that inspire visitors to experience art with fresh eyes is "the fun of the business," says curator Mary Morton: "Live installations are about how objects talk to each other."
Morton was named curator of French painting in 2009. She came from the J. Paul Getty Museum, eager to work with one of the world;s best collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. Her job has included overseeing the restoration of such treasures as Renoir's "Pont Neuf, Paris." In the restored work, visitors will be able to see the light as Renoir painted it. The redesigned galleries will feature more text to help viewers.
Morton has some unusual tools to help pull together a large installation, including what she calls a "curatorial dollhouse," which shows exhibits in miniature. But there's nothing like walking through the galleries, she says: "French painting in the second half of the 19th century was meant to provoke the viewer. They were painting for impact—visual, political, or social."
To make that impact more accessible to Washingtonians and the millions who visit here is, Morton says, "why I signed on."