BY MAX COHEN//
In the deep blue lighting of the Songbyrd Music Hall stage, Ryland Heagy, frontman of rising star emo duo Origami Angel, anxiously paces between two amps. After a few minutes of him disconnecting and reconnecting cables to the biggest pedalboard I’ve ever seen, it’s clear to everyone something’s wrong. He timidly calls for help over the PA and one of the tech guys scampers on stage. The two search for the issue, shouting over the booming house music until they discover Heagy’s wiring mistake. After a quick explanation and chord swap, Heagy gratefully daps his rescuer up, visibly shaken by his own error, but thankful for the assist. Drummer Pat Doherty shoots his partner a check-in thumbs up and Heagy responds by tapping his heart a few times with a weak smile. “Whaddya know,” he chuckles through the mic, “first show back in the DMV and I’m f*cking up!”
You can’t blame him for being so nervous; the pressure’s on for Origami Angel to make up for lost time at gigs like these. The uproarious fan reactions and positive reviews from their expansive double album, Gami Gang, which released earlier this year, has positioned them as leaders of fifth wave emo, jipped of total genre domination by an inability to play live. F*ck, these guys could be the next Modern Baseball (or at least the next Title Fight) if they just had more time on the road at this critical point in their career. Rebuilding their small club momentum is no easy task and even with the home court advantage, the Gami boys are returning to a scene scarred by the pandemic. DC artists and venues alike have struggled to stay afloat the past two years; Songbyrd was forced to move locations this summer to adapt to changing safety requirements. Tickets for this DMV homecoming only went on sale two weeks before the 30th. Thursday night was a lucky break, a hastily slapped together chance for the pair to get their live chops back before joining mom jeans. on tour next month.
For this preseason gig, Heagy and Doherty brought along two interesting, up-and-comers. Prude’s set began with frontman Nicholas Bairathi taking the stage solo for two tracks that sounded like Phoebe Bridgers but power-poppier; equally weepy, slightly more screamy. When the rest of the band joined in, the feel recalled the chiller side of 70s hard rock. To their credit this was Prude’s first ever live set and, while some songs felt a little derivative of Blue Oyster Cult, their open-chord grooves were pleasant as h*ll. Prude is currently prepping to drop their EP Moral Remainder with a release show on November 4th at The Pocket. The second group, Philly based shoegazers Bleary Eyed, melted faces with their dense, chugging breakdowns and twinkly overtones. Trying to craft some sort of vibe, they added splashes of digital instruments to their thick jams and made use of the space behind them by playing colorful, oversaturated videos of passing trains and flashy nonsense (this was effective even though the drummer’s shadow covered half the screen). On their closer, the distorted lead guitar was like boiling wax, singeing eardrums in tandem with high electronic frequencies that would shock hyperpop fans. Bleary Eyed’s layered sound was stunning; in my mind they’re a new must-see DIY live act and I can’t recommend catching their upcoming October and November gigs more.
Origami Angel’s set up felt sparse following a five piece band with a light show, but they made no attempt to fill the space with pyrotechnics or big onstage antics. Heagy spent the top half of the set glued to the mic, only breaking away for some gentle skanking. As he crooned the chorus to “Noah Fence”, hunched over, neck jutting out like a turtle, Doherty pounded the drums with violent precision as skinhead hardcore fans led the mosh fist-first. The room shook as the crowd shouted in unison for the vocal breakdowns, an intense scene for a love song about eating Thai food and watching Star Trek. But the two are so locked into one another and their sound is so hard that you can’t help but surrender yourself to their spine-shaking rhythms and blaring jazzy chords. By “24 Hr Drive-Thru”, the duo had fully loosened up and the image of the thrashy, boyish, emo princes came more into focus. They’re technically impressive, genuinely thankful for their audience, and humbly surprised when begged for an encore. Never to disappoint their devoted base, they end the night with “ROM Hack”, a fan favorite from the Doing the Most EP.
While the pair’s astronomical rise since their debut album, Somewhere City, feels sudden, the chorus of voices for this deeper cut shows they’ve been grinding for their shot at the throne for a while. When you see them, they might not play all of their new record’s singles or eclectic highlights and they’re liable to get distracted by a wild pit and flub a note, but don’t miss the chance to catch the next big thing. Origami Angel are scene royalty- soon they’ll call the shots, they just have to figure out how to wear the crowns.