AJJ and Kimya Dawson Love You

Arizona folk-punk band AJJ (short for Andrew Jackson Jihad, a play on Americans’ propensity to call people of color terrorists) took the Varsity Theater stage with Shellshag, Laura Stevenson, and Kimya Dawson.

Morgan Wittmers-Graves

Morgan Wittmers-Graves

The openers alone made the show worth it. Shellshag is known for their unusual stage configuration: the two members face each other rather than the audience, with the drummer wearing bells one might see on a belly dancer and thrashing around for emphasis. Laura Stevenson played a sweet variation on pop punk with fantastic lyrics. Kimya Dawson nearly stole the show, opening with a sea shanty, throwing some children’s songs in for good measure, and making every hardcore punk in the room cry during “At the Seams” and “Loose Lips.”

Known for their wacky, political lyrics and nonsensical demeanor, AJJ did not disappoint. Singer Sean Bonnette moved like an anxious teen seemingly unsure of where to go, but his voice was full of heart that touched everyone. They brought out the hits but also played a brand-new song, “Night of the Long Knives,” an unambiguously political track that also totally rocked. For their final song, “Big Bird,” Sean did somersaults and lay on the ground. He drew everyone into the fear and experience of his struggles with mental illness, something that makes this band so dear to its fans. Everyone in the room sang and screamed along, faces screwed up or crying, pushed up against each other in love or sheer drunkenness, and felt a little less alone for a moment.

Wake Mag