Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Day 89: Andrew Jackson Jihad Turtles

So, Andrew Jackson Jihad.

I've mentioned them on this blog, and if you follow me on Twitter you've maybe seen me tweet at them. AJJ is made up of Sean Bonnette on guitar and vocals and Ben Gallaty on stand up bass and backing vocals. They are unique in their musicality and no one in music today can turn a phrase quite like Sean Bonnette. Their songs are usually very catching with a thin layer of comedy on top of generally more serious content. Don't misunderstand, they aren't all depressing downers. Some of them are serious feel-good songs, but some of them are about being pissed off and hating everyone else and their stupid shit. That's one of the things I love about their song writing. They write songs like human emotions; sometimes you're on top of the world, sometimes you want to burn it down.

One of my favorite examples is the contrast between their songs "People" and "People II: The Reckoning" from the album People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World. "People II" comes first and is a pretty angry song about how nothing is real and everyone is terrible deep down inside, but the record ends on a very upbeat note with "People" which is about how even though people are pretty shitty we're all still awesome because we're all in this life together and we should recognize that. Since hearing these songs and understanding their meanings I often think of my moods in terms of which song I'm feeling at the moment. Yesterday, getting ready for the show I was definitely more "People" than "People II: The Reckoning." It makes sense to me, I just don't generally say it out loud because most people wouldn't get the reference.

You know what? I think we should make this a thing. Everyone listen to those songs and then start using that phrase to describe your mood. It'll catch on in no time. Trust me.

Now that my unnecessary review of a band I obviously love is over with let's start at the beginning, shall we?

My wife and I used to live in Phoenix, AZ; her family still does. A couple years ago her brother, Alex, started talking to us about a local band, Andrew Jackson Jihad. He's usually got good taste in music, but not everything resonates with us like it does with him so we remembered the name because it's a pretty ridiculous name, but I kind of pushed them to the back of my mind. Then, while we were visiting during Christmas he told us he thought we would really like them and he burned us a few of their albums to listen to on our drive. It can sometimes be an awkward situation when someone forces new music on you that they're really into. There's a certain expectation to like it or you could be inadvertently insulting the other person's taste in music. Once we actually started listening to it, though, it was like a light bulb clicked on. Why hadn't we listened to them before?

Fast forward 7 months or so and Alex decides to fly home with us after a family vacation to Pennsylvania so he could spend some time in Austin. It just so happened that AJJ was playing a show while he was in town. My wife and I were excited to see them for the first time. The crowd was impressive and they did not disappoint. We talked with them for a few minutes after the show and they were both very nice guys. We bought a 7" called Pug Life which one of them (Sean probably) drew square frame glasses on the dog's face and a cigar in his mouth

Fast forward again to a couple of months ago when I posted my "Leonardo: Principito" drawing on here. The picture was heavily inspired by their song "Principito" that I had stuck in my head all day. When I posted the link to Twitter I tagged AJJ in it like I always do when my post relates to someone that I follow just in case that person sees it and gets a kick out of it. A little while later I saw that AJJ retweeted it and then a friend texted me to tell me that they were following me on Twitter. That's a whole lot of really nerdy social networking speak that basically amounts to the fact that they obviously liked my post and it made me feel awesome.

So, now that we're all caught up to the present I can talk about the show last night. **Spoiler Alert** It was awesome.

We got to the show a little while after doors opened. We went around to the back where AJJ had their merch set up and made introductions. I know I just said that they retweeted my blog and followed me on Twitter afterwards, but I refuse to believe anyone but some of my friends and family read it so I had a little "holy shit" moment when Sean mentioned it by name. This is not my lively-hood and I would hardly call it art, but it's a little creative outlet for me and it's fun so it's cool to hear that people enjoy it.

We talked to the guys for a little bit about living in AZ and driving across Texas. My wife gave them some delicious pumpkin cookies she made (remember what I said in previous posts about bringing gifts to people?) They enjoyed a few while we browsed their wares. I ended up buying a shirt and People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World on vinyl because Knife Man was sold out. My wife got a bright pink koozie with the words "Skull fuck your thirst!" on the front with a picture of a penis in the mouth of a skull and the words "Andrew Fucking Jackson Jihad" on the back with a bunch of motocross riders doing tricks. It's the most awesome koozie we own.

After we bought our stuff we went inside to watch Into It. Over It which was actually just one guy, Evan Weiss. I was really impressed with his set. He reminded me a lot of acoustic Starting Line which is a big compliment from me because I love their acoustic EP. In all seriousness if I had been more talented or maybe more serious when I was in a band in Phoenix Into It. Over It is what my music would have aspired to sound like. We talked to him for a little while after his set and I bought his newest release, Proper, on vinyl.

We went back in for AJJ's set. It was amazing despite some minor technical sound issues in the beginning. They played a wide range of stuff and ended with "Principito" which is one of my favorites. I don't have much more to say about the actual show other than I loved it and my voice is pretty scratchy from singing along for the whole set. My wife says the next show we go to we should bring kazoos. That may not be a bad idea.

After their set we went back outside and talked to the band some more and made some new friends. While we were talking to Ben we met a guy named John. I may have misheard, but I believe John knew the band because he played some shows with them in New Mexico. He told us he just moved to Austin about 10 months ago. Normally I'm wary of strangers trying to talk to me at shows because 9 out of 10 times they're either too drunk or too high to string a sentence together, but John was actually pretty awesome and he was extremely articulate. I wish I could communicate an idea half as well as he did, but even when I write I tend to ramble and by the time I stop writing I've often landed way off the original point I was trying to make. We talked to him for a good part of the rest of the night about music, living in Austin and our mutual love of the Alamo Drafthouse. He also said some very nice things about us as a couple which is always nice to hear. John was a cool guy and hopefully we'll see him around again sometime.

At one point Ben asked me, "So, wait, are you the turtle guy?" I just laughed and said, yeah I guess I am the turtle guy. "Oh, OK. I knew the turtle guy was coming, and that he was really excited for the show, I just didn't make the connection that you were him." Then I had to explain to Evan (Into It. Over It) what he meant by turtle guy and Ben told me that Sean is a fan of the blog. I told him that's weird to me and he just said, "Maybe it's not weird, maybe it's perfect." I didn't talk to Sean about the blog so I'll choose to take that with a grain of salt and believe that he was a fan of my Principito post and that he maybe occasionally looks at other posts when he sees them on Twitter. Whatever the truth is that's pretty cool that it made an impression.

We missed the last band, which kind of sucks because I think we would have liked them, but we got started talking to AJJ, Evan and John and just kind of kept talking. They were good conversations so I won't beat myself up too much about it.

So, that was our awesome night at the Andrew Jackson Jihad show that I turned into a long and probably very boring story. I hope you enjoyed it. As I usually do when writing a post about a band I'll leave you with some music, but I'll also leave you with something extra.

I'm not much for quoting other people. I don't keep mantras and clever lines in my head to remind me of things or to impress other people, but I do have two Andrew Jackson Jihad lyrics that come into my head unannounced all the time that remind me to relax and not take everything so seriously. The first is from a song called "Evil."

I Will always appreciate bad days like this,
Because they grant me a point of reference in regards to my happiness.

Number two is the chorus from the song "Rejoice."

Rejoice despite the fact this world will hurt you.
And rejoice despite the fact this world will kill you.
And rejoice despite the fact this world will tear you to shreds.
Rejoice because you're trying your best.

Now rejoice and enjoy a couple more songs.

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