That’s emo. Whatever preconceptions you have about mall teens or jet black hair swoops, emo’s power comes from the comfort of hearing someone singing along to the uncomfortable emotions and feelings in your head. On Sunday, three bands that made their names in the online emo world, Glass Beach, Proper and Home is Where, crossed the threshold into the realm of IRL, playing a sold-out show on Sunday night at Pie Shop.
Glass Beach is the sort of ensemble that sounds as eclectic as the influences it can reel off. The quartet shuffles through jazz and synth-prog-rock and what sound like sweeping video game scores. The Los Angeles rockers have developed a cultish online following and it translated in-person when fans were eager to sway and shout along to infectious standouts off “The First Glass Beach Album,” including “Bedroom Community.”
Proper was the most straightforward rockers of the night. The trio crafts an immensely likable and lyrically knotty brand of emo that is at its strongest when singer Erik Garlington gets personal. The members of Proper are all Black, and in a genre where alienation is already top of mind, lyrics about navigating through whiteness stands out. Reflecting on the online outpouring over the deaths of Sandra Bland and Elijah McClain, on the song “Don’t,” Garlington asks: “If I was next, how long would you protest for me?”
Home Is Where played perhaps the most riveting set of the night. The quartet’s exhilarating brand of emo, primarily from their stellar album “I Became Birds,” blends the fiery rage of hardcore with the oddball existentialism of indie recluses Neutral Milk Hotel. The latter felt especially present in the Florida group’s use of singing saw and its surreal lyrics about confusion around who we are and what all this is.
How do you ease the alienation of life online? Maybe there’s a clue in how Home is Where vocalist Brandon Macdonald hopped into the crowd during the anthemic singalong of “Sewn Together From the Membrane of the Great Sea Cucumber” and put an arm around fans who were enthusiastically shouting, “I wanna pet every puppy I see!” The emo kids who discovered a world online had found each other in real life.