BY IAN KEARNS//
The night began slowly, almost with a whisper lying just beneath the surface. The jungle-like environment in Adams Morgan of concrete and old tree bark passed my field of vision as I sped on a trusty yet dented Lime scooter northwards to the 9:30 Club. I was nervous yet eager, and as I drew near memories flooded and cracked open my brain. I had known one of the acts, Francis of Delirium, from my days of IB Music having jammed frequently with lead singer and composer Jana Bahrich. Now, a band which had garnered its first following in my school was playing one of the most popular clubs in the United States. Akin to watching a flower bloom I knew I was witnessing a unique event in the trajectory of this group, standing at the precipice leaning towards fame. It was hard not to grow excited as the day turned purple with exhaustion and flipped to evening.
Inside the 9:30 Club the floor was barren, a vast expanse of linoleum and wood that held no visitors at first. Time passed like an illusion of the mind, scraping itself past the purported start time with a sluggishness seen only in the outer reaches of nature. Finally, Vanillaroma, a band of indie masterminds who had earlier caught the attention of BROCKHAMPTON, took the stage. The mustachioed men were the epitome of indie chic: each had their own distinct printed tees atop a common denominator of baggy trousers. The rhythm guitarist even had a tee shirt-hoodie hybrid which anywhere else would’ve been chastised as an abomination. Here it worked brilliantly. The lead man, slinging a ukulele over one shoulder with a camera strap, addressed the crowd with a SoCal drawl you so often hear imitated, but never perfected by non-locals. I was positioned at the very front by the guitarist, and got lost in his fuzz-hued, compressed tone while the songs flew by. Rap and pop-punk blended together to create an interesting maelstrom of sound. Thumping drums matched with tight rhythm and lead guitar work, forming a solid stack of pancakes for the confident voice of the frontman to drizzle upon like maple syrup. At one point in the evening, the band asked the crowd whether a man named Garett was present. As it happens, Garett went to school with the group, and was the class president. What a coincidence for another pair of school peers to be at the same show!
It was almost time. I watched, wide-eyed, as Jana confidently strode on stage, not dissimilar to a heavyweight champ confident of victory before the punches fly. A previously-unheard roar erupted from the crowd, a volcano of noise whose magma overwhelmed my corner in the front. A smile couldn’t be stopped from stretching itself across my face as the three members of this group looked at each other ever-so-briefly, and launched into the first song. As the time whizzed by in coordination with the short-but-sweet numbers, the guitar rumbled from its drop tuning as the bass took center stage with melodic bass lines played far up the fretboard. The drums were an unrivaled facet to this arrangement, presenting complex rhythms while hitting the very core of my stomach. Jana’s songwriting has always played with dynamics, and even in the most pared back of songs you can hear an element of roaring angst within. I looked on with excitement and pride- I was watching an act with roots in Luxembourg jamming, ready to take their next step as a band. At one point, Jana and I recognized each other, grinning while confusion and recollection spread across both of our faces.
At the end of Francis of Delirium’s set, the Districts took the stage. The room shook. After hearing one song where pop and punk blended into a captivating concoction I left. I had done what I had sought to do, and now it was time to return to reality.