Andrew Jackson Jihad, Hard Girls, Dogbreth - Crescent Ballroom - 8/1/14
All photos Troy Farah Andrew Jackson Jihad
Andrew Jackson Jihad might be the best band Phoenix has produced. And unlike certain local punk bands from the '80s, they remain relevant. Unlike most musicians who move elsewhere to "make it," totally neglecting their hometown later, Sean Bonnette and Ben Gallaty have made every effort to stay involved in the Valley, even when they're stomping around Europe with Frank Turner or taking time off in other cities. That's why when AJJ returns home, it always feels like a reunion of sorts.
AJJ's music will always remind me of my hometown and my many friends who are also fans. So I had to pass the torch. Not too long ago, I introduced my younger brother Garrett to "The Jihad," as we call it. He just turned 16 as well, so for his birthday, we brought him to AJJ's sold out show at Crescent. This review was supposed to focus more on his perspective, but unfortunately, something tragic happened on our way to gig.
A lot of my friends got tickets to this show, so about seven of us were walking down Indian School Road to the light rail when we heard a loud smack. I jumped. At first I thought a tire blew out or a car clipped another vehicle. But it was instead a pedestrian who walked out into traffic.
She was killed instantly. You could tell by the way her body lay under the tire. You could tell by the way other pedestrians, witnesses, responded. You could tell by the way the driver reacted. It was over.
Like a movie, it immediately started to rain. We called 911, but sirens were already heading toward us. A nearby police copter aimed its spotlight over the scene. We stood there stunned. For me and several others in my group, it was the first time we'd ever seen someone die. I've known death, but never right in front of me.
My editor and I both considered not mentioning this incident. It's not entirely relevant to the show and it's a huge bummer. I hope this doesn't demoralize you. Yet, my job as a critic is to report on live music with a critical and therefore subjective eye, and when you witness something like that, it alters your mood.
Because of this, we were late to see Dogbreth open, which was kind of a letdown because I learned they did a really weird, awesome cover of Warren Zevon's "Werewolves Of London." We did catch Hard Girls, however.
Hard Girls (who have no females in their lineup for some reason), played fast and loose punk songs with both the guitarist and bassist trading grungy vocal melodies. That duality is what worked best in their favor. Deacon Batchelor, AJJ's drummer, subbed for Hard Girls and despite only practicing during soundcheck, he played flawlessly.
But honestly, it was hard to get into. I was in some kind of stupor. Hard Girls played two or three songs before I even realized they were on stage. I snapped out of it -- but only momentarily. When the band offered lyrics like "I wanna die slow," my mind was elsewhere.
But back to Garrett. Like me, growing up in North Phoenix didn't lend to many show opportunities. My brother had been to concerts before, but he had really only seen arena rock outfits like Journey, Styx, and Jimmy Buffet. This was his first "real" show, with kickass punk bands that he enjoyed himself, not some group my parents liked. I was beyond excited to share this experience with him and thought his perspective would be interesting.
While he was a little shaken up by the incident, he seemed OK. He told me that he liked Hard Girls' energy and the fact that they "didn't sound like crap." There was almost too much bass to him, which he says the band should be "careful about, as it shouldn't drown out the vocals."
Andrew Jackson Jihad took the stage to unanimous applause, but this show didn't get nearly as rowdy as other AJJ performances I've seen, including their last gig at Crescent. Perhaps this had to do with Bonnette requesting no crowd surfing (according to one person, the "longest crowd surf ever" happened during Dogbreth's set, but Hard Girls didn't get much moshing.)