AJJ + Kimya Dawson at the Regent (LA)

by Lily Nauta

From the ragers in the mosh pit to those nodding and swaying on the outskirts, or those like me, in the front row– braving the ripple effect of the pit, melodramatically screaming each lyric in visceral passion AJJ, Kimya Dawson, and Shellshag formed a perfect arrangement that turned a crowd of hundreds into a single unit.

Shellshag

The audience received their initial induction of octane with Brooklyn’s Shellshag. The duo combines Jen Shag’s explosive standup drumming skills and homemade boots– fully equipped with sleigh bells along with the comfort of John Shell’s jangly guitar riffs and familiar voice that echoes to rock n’ roll classics. Shellshag seemed to conjure the audience’s attention in their tribal-esque rhythm and unfiltered emotion. The pair especially enthralled the crowd when they broke from their face to face performance and stacked their instruments on top of one another to signify their power as a group.

With the audience’s eardrums reverberating with the undeniable energy, nostalgia, and sense of loss evoked by Shellshag, Kimya Dawson set in.

Between the levity of her slapstick quips, the gentle nostalgia of her lullaby-esque symphonies, and borderless themes, Kimya not only harnessed the audience’s attention– but paralyzed them under the subtle alchemy of her warbling vibrato. With the dichotomies she merged and the incomparable atmosphere she curated, Kimya lulled the audience through her journey of love, heartbreak, injustice, and empowerment that tempered the audience into a teary-eyed, yet strangely invigorated melancholia. It’s almost certain that (not only I) but the rest of the audience had one of her most captivating mantras resonating in their mind for the remainder of the night: “Hands up don’t shoot I can’t breathe, black lives matter no justice no peace, I know that we can overcome because I had a dream”.

Kimya

With the audience released from the clutches of Kimya’s timid vocals and empowering ethos, the Regent was buzzing as if having emerged from a trance. The crowd’s energy met its peak when AJJ (formerly Andrew Jackson Jihad) transcended the audience into its final cathartic outburst. The haunting cello, keys, and drums shivered the audience’s vertebrae, while the acoustic intimacy of the band’s classics (such as “Brave as a Noun” from the group’s first album) gave room for the listeners to lash out while screaming the raw emotions being evoked. The group primarily performed songs released after the band’s name change (which also marked the band’s stylistic shift), their setlist stood as a rejection against the mass-produced culture and cliched emotions the band perceives– not only in others, but in themselves. AJJ harnessed the nihilistic misanthropy, self-criticism, and idealism they portray on record and engulfed the audience into their reality.

Between the classic punk rock energy of Shellshag, shivering weight and (somehow simultaneously) buoyant levity of Kimya Dawson, and the nonlinear cynicism of AJJ, the show’s lineup and arrangement formed a unit with the audience. Despite their stylistic differences, each performer had one major similarity that they brought forth and shared with the audience– we had all stared into the abyss and had now been swallowed and were collectively screaming from the bottom.

Sean from AJJ