Live Review: AJJ at Rock City Studios in Camarillo, CA

On August 23, AJJ (formerly Andrew Jackson Jihad) played in Camarillo, California as part of “The Bible 2’r”, a string of shows in the Southwest celebrating the release of their new album, The Bible 2. They brought with them ROAR and John Congleton and the Nighty Nite, two supports quite fitting for the occasion. The venue, Rock City Studios, which is located in a strip mall two doors down from a Baptist church, was intimate and filled with plenty of fake fog and purple lights, creating an eerie vibe that complimented the music being played.

ROAR, a band from AJJ’s hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, took the stage first, although if you’d missed the poster at the door you may not have realized it, as they never actually introduced themselves. They kept chatter at a minimum through their set, though stopping to thank AJJ and John Congleton for a great tour and mentioning that they had merch to sell in the back of the venue. The band’s sound is a pleasant mixture of oldies and emo pop, pairing bright guitar sounds and easy riffs with deeper lyrics. They weren’t the most entertaining to watch, but definitely great to listen to.

John Congleton and the Nighty Nite followed, consisting of the eponymous John Congleton playing guitar and a keyboardist introduced as “That’s Jordan.” Their set was darker in tone, with lyrics about death and a keyboard tracks straight out of horror films. Congleton was much more animated than ROAR, moving his hips like a young Elvis Presley and sharing fun facts with the audience throughout his set.

AJJ took the stage with energy and quickly noticed one of the coolest features of Rock City Studios’ performance space: a large screen to the right of the stage, which displays a live feed of the venues mentions on Twitter and Instagram. Sean Bonnette (vocals, acoustic guitar) began sharing photos of dogs while Mark Glick (cello) sent sarcastic Tweets with “#rockcitystudios”. The band was in great form for the entire performance, which included most of The Bible 2 as well as new arrangements of older songs. While I wasn’t a huge fan of “American Garbage” on The Bible 2, it was easily one of the most fun songs to watch live, as Bonnette ditched his guitar and somersaulted around the stage. Other favorites from the evening include “Love Will Fuck Us Apart”, which showed off AJJ’s folkier side, as well as the anthemic “Big Bird” and “When I’m a Dead Boy”, the song which closed both The Bible 2 and the Camarillo show.

This show was a lot of fun, despite the odd location and the handful of drunk audience members who thought shouting incoherently at bands was a good idea. Rock City Studios is a great and reasonably priced venue (which also makes it possible for you to look at pictures of dogs during a show without being rude and whipping out your phone) and all the bands gave great performances. AJJ managed to take every song in their set and breathe new life into it, making the classics feel fresh and the new songs even more exciting. If you’re in the US, you can catch them as The Bible 2’r continues with Diners, Kepi Ghoulie, and Chris Farren. If you’re not in the US, you can at least order a copy of The Bible 2 and quietly weep to yourself.

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