AJR: A Concert Experience Like No Other

To set the mood for a song, AJR briefly performs with screen behind them that displays an image of space.

Madi La Crosse

To set the mood for a song, AJR briefly performs with screen behind them that displays an image of space.

Madi La Crosse

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Bright flashing lights. Bold theatrics. A grand opening and finale. The AJR brothers, who performed in Madison on October 23, exuded an energy through their performance that you couldn’t find anywhere else. This show was a unique experience unlike anything I had seen before. 

AJR is a musical group consisting of three brothers, Adam, Jack and Ryan. They created their name, AJR, by combining the first initial from each of their names. Upon hearing the band name, most people wouldn’t recognize them –  After mentioning one of their more popular songs, such as “Weak” or “Sober Up,” the majority of people begin to say things along the lines of “now I know who they are.” 

AJR’s music is a lively mix of pop and alternative that’s very different than other artists today. On their third album, “Neotheater,” AJR mixes a great deal of musical elements into one beautiful product that creates a very captivating listening experience. Production-wise, they’re very creative throughout the album. By using an abundance of unique sound samples ranging from a full vintage-esque choir to the sound of their car keys dropping, they have generated a style like no one else. 

 

The evening of the show, my friends and I went out for pizza and promptly walked over to The Sylvee. Once we arrived, the line was already around the block, and there were still 30 minutes until the doors even opened. After waiting in the cold for what felt like an eternity, we were finally able to enter, and the first thing I did was spend way too much money on a t-shirt. The venue was general admission, so my friends and I got ourselves a spot in the front, right behind the VIP fans. After around an hour, the opener, Michael Blume, came to the stage. His set wasn’t awful, but it was somewhat underwhelming. Also, the sound quality wasn’t good, so it was hard to understand what he was saying. Everyone was just too excited for AJR to come out, so no one paid much attention to the opener. There was about a half-hour between AJR and Blume, and the audience became giddier by the minute. At 8:30 pm, my dream of seeing the AJR brothers in person came true. The second the music started, and the lights began flashing, the energy in the room became unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Adam came out and started playing piano, Jack came out jumping around the stage, and finally, Ryan entered playing the guitar and positioned himself right in front of where we were standing. The entrance was as grand as expected, and everyone lost their minds. 

After a few songs, the band stopped playing and just talked to the audience. They called on specific people in the audience to point out something they noticed and cracked jokes, making it feel personal for everyone in the room. Sophomore Brooke Rhodes says her favorite part of the show was “when Ryan recalled a story from his childhood where some other kids made fun of him for wearing his Crocs.” Another instance of AJR’s interaction with the audience occurred when they noticed a kid who was sitting in the balcony wearing a Dunder Mifflin shirt from the show “The Office.” The band pointed him out because one of their songs, “Netflix Trip,” is about the popular show. Every person I talked to at the concert loved the intimacy of the show. Sophomore Emily Nordhaus says she “loved the interactions they had with the audience and how personal it felt.”

The show went on, and they played songs from their new album as well as some older ones such as “Burn the House Down,” “Sober Up,” and “Come Hang Out.” Something super unique about this show was the use of a giant TV behind the performers. There were props, and they created a scene for almost every song to create a very specific feeling – every set was better than the next. One of the more noteworthy incorporations of the TV was when there was a “leak” behind Jack on the screen. He grabs a bucket and pretends to throw paint on the screen, and a larger version of him pops up who is also holding a bucket. The bigger Jack throws paint too, and a third, larger Jack shows up. The three of them do some in sync motions, and then the two Jacks on the screen start a clapping pattern that leads to the start of the next song. 

Sadly, the concert had to come to an end. AJR left the stage, and everything went dark for a second. The screen came back on and showed a message thanking the fans for coming and supporting them, and at that point, it seemed like they were about to end it without a grand finale. The crowd started to chant the band name, and after a couple of very long minutes, the screen showed the same image as the beginning of the show, pink and orange clouds with trumpets blasting all around. Their last song on the new album “Finale (Can’t Wait To See What You Do Next)” started to play, and the band came back out. They then played the first song released off the album: “100 Bad Days”. After a long goodbye, the show was over. Lili Roden says that “the show was amazing” and that she “was in shock afterwards, and [I] couldn’t believe it had just happened.” 

All in all, the AJR concert experience was unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of, and it was a truly unforgettable night. If I could relive it every night, I would – it was just that good. Anyone who’s a fan or just likes a great concert should definitely go to one of their shows at any given opportunity because it was truly a spectacle unmatched by any other show by any other artist.