Last Wednesday night, February 24, folk punk band AJJ (formerly Andrew Jackson Jihad) graced San Francisco. While the adoption of the acronym represented a step away from their old brand of edginess, they’ve kept their traditional angst in the intimate halls of The Chapel. Spearheaded by founding members Sean Bonnette and Ben Gallaty, the band miraculously made it to the Noise Pop Music Festival on a night sandwiched between two shows in Arizona. The show opened with three sets from Bay Area natives M. Lockwood Porter, OWL PAWS, and Battlehooch.
The opening sets were perfectly arranged in order of talent and hype. Porter’s songs clunked along like his cumbersome name. His Bob Dylanesque delivery of blunt social commentaries felt forced and flanked constant reminders of his Indiegogo campaign. OWL PAWS hit the stage to provide much needed relief with frantic not-quite-folk tunes. Battlehooch then culminated the three by storming onto the stage with a psychedelic folk cover of Lil Wayne’s “Turn Down for What”. The band dawned top hats, dual wielded saxophones (as in one guy literally played two at once), and maintained constant crowd service in a perfect precipitation of the main act.
AJJ started their set off with a mosh-inducing rendition of “Brave As A Noun”. Minutes after taking the stage the venue filled with the warm humidity of packed bodies, many of whom rose above the crowd atop clouds of ink stamped hands. The energy plateaued for the first half of the set as Sean cued the band into each track with nary a moment to catch his breath. Punchy riffs like “Kokopelli Face Tattoo” carried the evening to a crescendo before AJJ abruptly slowed the pace by walking off stage, sans frontman Sean Bonnette, who then coaxed the evening towards brutally calm confessional tunes.
The songs were, for the most part, fairly true renditions of the studio variants. Some pleasant exceptions were tucked into the set, such as a solo version of “Love In The Time Of Human Papillomavirus” that featured briefly distorted vocals which lulled the clammy mosh pit into a daydream. The spell was further courted by the emotional drawls in “Free Bird” before the full band returned to the stage for their classic outro “Big Bird”. Sean jumped into the crowd which readily welcomed his sweat drenched body. A chorus of half drunk attendees then belched the angst driven climax in a circular arrangement around Sean. In a moment of awkwardness, an over eager mosher unplugged his microphone, but it was too late to undo the heavy dosage of punk-love he had gifted to the crowd.
At just under an hour, the set felt appropriately timed but was a bit of a let down from their older standard of two hour marathons. Their set list stuck to reliable hits but any other variation would’ve been comparably sweet given their consistent sound. If you’re in the mood for a booze-driven catharsis of moshing to bluntly depressive lyrics, do yourself a favor and catch them June 15 at Bottom of the Hill.
Article by Nathan Black.