Saturday night was one of those perfect shows that I always hope for. It was a perfect storm– I had never seen the headliner and was excited to cross them off of my bucket list. I was alone and could act like a fool if I wanted to because, well hell, I didn’t know anyone at the show last night. The opener, although I had never heard of him prior to the show, absolutely freaking killed it and instantly turned into a new favorite. The sold out room felt like one big happy family and just radiated positivity. There were no faces of judgement or any frowns in the crowd. Yeah, it was one of those perfect nights.

The show was opened up by The Homeless Gospel Choir which actually wasn’t a choir at all. THGC is Pittsburgh based Derek Zanetti and, within just a couple of words, I was in love with this guy. Derek’s folk-punk sound complimented what was to come almost perfectly while still keeping a feel of being completely unique. His music was gritty and felt unfinished but that was by design and it gave his music an edge and personality.

The stage was filled with just Derek, a guitar, and a microphone but it seemed like the microphone wasn’t even necessary. Majority of the time Derek would pull away from the microphone and, although you could still hear his voice through the speakers, you heard more from just him. It gave the show a basement feel that fit the folk-punk sound perfectly. This lack of microphone usage also fit Derek’s larger than life personality. He came off as being one of the most genuine guys I have ever met and him talking directly to the crowd without the microphone seemed to be proof of that.

If the music thing doesn’t work out for Derek (although he’s four albums in so I think it’s fair to say that it’s working), I could see him having a bright future in the comedy scene. His lyrics were smart-assy and unapologetic. There were multiple times where his lyrics had me laughing to the point where I was looking for a route to the bathroom. Each song was introduced as a protest song. Regardless of what song was coming, it was a protest song. The crowd quickly caught on and helped Derek introduce each song… as a protest song. My favorite song that he played last night had to have been “Musical Preference” which starts with a line that state’s Derek’s dislike for Sublime’s “40 Oz. of Freedom”. Do I agree with that statement? No. I love that album but, as the song goes onto explain– we can still be friends. It seemed like a song just full of lines of a words that I would say while judging my friend’s taste in music and it was perfect.

Even with all of the humor throughout the set, Derek had a very serious side to him. He spoke about how this concert (and punk shows in general) are open spaces. It doesn’t matter what color you are, what gender you identify as, what your sexual preference is– nothing matters. What matters if you have a safe space to be whoever the hell you want and he is honored to have you at his show. He talk about his hatred for his sixth grade teacher and spent some time getting extremely political. He spoke briefly about white privilege and was extremely honest about everything. Yet again, Derek was putting his heart out on that stage and being completely transparent with the crowd. It was enough to give me goosebumps.

I was so enthralled by THGC’s set that I hadn’t realized forty-five minutes had already passed. I was honestly a bit bummed out as Derek left the stage. It was as if I had completely forgotten why I was excited for the show, I had gone in super excited to see AJJ (formerly Andrew Jackson Jihad) but here I was swooning over the opening act. I was honestly worried if AJJ would be able to steal back my heart… and then they took the stage.

AJJ is a  two piece folk-punk band (although sometimes they come in the form of a full band) from Arizona that, since the day my brother introduced me to them, has been a staple in my daily playlist. Saturday’s show was party of a ten year anniversary tour for their album ” People Who Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World”. I feel like that album should tell you most of what you need to know. Much like THGC, AJJ are jokesters but still have a somewhat serious side when it comes to certain things.

The hour long set was started with a playthrough of their “People Who Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World” album. They seemed to power through it as fast as they could and actually had it in the books in under thirty minutes. Upright bassist/singer Ben Gallaty and singer/guitarist Sean Bonnette explained that they weren’t trying to rush through the album because they hated it. More because they wanted to play what they wanted to play.

The crowd begged and pleaded to hear certain songs. With six albums out and multiple EPs, splits and demos, AJJ had more than enough music to fill multiple hours of music but they only had an hour last night. Sure, I didn’t get to hear my favorite songs and I honestly didn’t know half of what they played last night since I had fallen in love with a different album of theirs had apparently haven’t been able to move on to their other albums yet– but it was still perfect and the crowd seemed happy. I was shocked to see just how many people were dancing and screaming along. I was shocked when this show sold out as I didn’t know that many people could be into this quirky folk-punk band but I was instantly happy that AJJ was getting the recognition they deserve.

As great as AJJ’s set was and as happy as I was to finally be crossing them off of my bucketlist, I still could not forget The Homeless Gospel Choir’s set. AJJ could have played every single song I wanted to hear and I still think I would have THGC’s set in the back of mind rather than giving AJJ all of my attention. THGC made a joke halfway through his set that if there are any journalists in the crowd, “My name is The Homeless Gospel Choir and I’d like to be rich and famous one day– that’s where you come in!” Well, Derek, here’s me doing my part to help you on your conquest. I went into last night’s show dying to see AJJ and not caring who opened the show. I left the show excited to be able to say I finally saw AJJ but also stoked that I was introduced to my new favorite act– The Homeless Gospel Project.

Regardless of who I went to the show to see or who stole the show– last night was one of those nights where I wish I could have captured the atmosphere in a jar to re-use when I was having a rough day.  It was an absolutely perfect night.

Line Up:

The Homeless Gospel Choir

AJJ

Venue: 7th Street Entry

Sausage Fest Meter- 5 out of 10

Average Age of the Crowd- 25

Crowd Surfers- 0

Stage Divers-  0

Broken Bones- 0

Spotted Flying Through The Air- Nothing

Fights-0

Pukers- 0

Drunkards Taken Out By Security- 0

Celebrity Sightings- None

Overall Score- 11 out of 10

Show on Deck-  Royal Canoe

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