I walked into a sold out crowd already covered in sweat from three bands worth of rocking to find Andrew Jackson Jihad already up on stage. It was 10pm and the person I had talked to earlier in the day said they’d go on at 10:30. I made my way as far as I could toward the front, which was still pretty far away. The band launched into a set made up mostly from their great record Christmas Island.
When I saw them a couple weeks ago in Toronto they flew through what seemed like the whole album in about 15 minutes. The set at Bottom Lounge was fast and frantic, but the pace was more balanced with a lot of banter between Sean Bonnette and Preston Bryant about things like The Black Crowes lyrics and where all the shoes on the stage were coming from.
Bonnette is a real machine on stage, ripping his acoustic guitar and screaming his lungs out on a lot of tunes. Then the whole band leaves and he plays solo, singing sweetly and maintaining the same energy level. Over the course of their touring, Andrew Jackson Jihad has perfected the move where the rest of the band comes back in after being off stage, and the crowd erupted each time this happened at Bottom Lounge.
They didn’t play “Love Will Fuck Us Apart,” which was a little disappointing. They more than made up for it with amazing performances of “Big Bird,” “Kokopelli Face Paint,” and “Hate, Rain On Me.” I love that a few songs in Bryant responded to someone yelling out a song title, saying: “We’re being professional tonight. We have a setlist and everything…No we don’t. We don’t have a setlist. We’re gonna play that song now.” Such a fan-friendly band.
Having now seen Andrew Jackson Jihad twice this July, I can honestly say I wish I could see them play twice every month. Their shows are exciting and fun, with everyone in the audience singing along to every song. They made a special request at the beginning of the show that no one stage dive or crowd surf, but seemed kind of disappointed that they had to say it. That didn’t stop the unorganized chaos of a mosh pit in the middle of the floor which somehow never seemed to get out of control. AJJ fans know how to be courteous when they slam into one another.
If you haven’t, I highly recommend checking out Christmas Island, which came out earlier this year (and currently rests in my top 15 of 2014). If they play your town and you dig high-energy shows with relatable songs for anyone under 40, definitely go check them out. They currently have shows scheduled through October in the US and Europe.