Emerging from the folk-punk explosion some years ago, Andrew Jackson Jihad, an Arizona-based duo formed between Sean Bonnette and Ben Gallaty, two friends and musicians, have recorded their first live album to date, “Live at the Crescent Ballroom.” Released by independent punk label Asian Man Records, this twenty five-song LP has material from all of the band’s full-length releases and then some, including some of the best songs from “People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World,” their split with Ghost Mice, “Only God Can Judge Me,” “Can’t Maintain,” and “Knife Man,” as well as a couple of previously unreleased songs. To be sure, this is the ultimate release for Andrew Jackson Jihad fans. And if you aren’t a fan yet, it would just as surely serve as a worthy introduction to the sort of songs they write, release and perform.
Having had the opportunity and pleasure of attending an Andrew Jackson Jihad show a few years back, when they were passing through the Northeastern states, I know just how capable they are of delivering a wonderful, high-energy and captivating performance. This particular record, comprised as it is of songs played at an end-of-tour show at Phoenix’s Crescent Ballroom, possesses something more than what one usually gets at an Andrew Jackson Jihad show. More often than not, Sean and Ben tour together, putting on two-man shows at venues across the country. But on this record they are joined by friends and fellow musicians whose contributions to the songs are such that they are even better than they normally are. While typically just Ben on upright bass and Sean on acoustic guitar and vocals, this show features additional instrumentation, like electric guitar, horns, keys, mandolin, drums, and so on. This particular performance tips the folk-punk scales, generally quite balanced, more in favor of punk. But that makes sense, since Andrew Jackson Jihad have been steadily adding to their sound and at times shifting it to other musical areas, yet not so much that they have forgotten how it all began and no longer hold that that earlier sound to heart. Every worthwhile band’s sound evolves over time, even Andrew Jackson Jihad’s sound. And most importantly, they are clearly still having loads of fun doing what they do.
Be that as it may, their wholly idiosyncratic sound is a not so much folk-punk as it is a genre unto itself. Granted, it has qualities belonging to both styles, but so much more. In addition to their unique sound, Sean belts out his completely inimitable vocals, which are marked by his witty lyrics and personal philosophies and oddly themed stories on the good and bad points of real life. And this is exactly why every Andrew Jackson Jihad release is the sort of album one can listen to again and again and again, and never tire of. And “Live at the Crescent Ballroom” is no exception.
“Live at the Crescent Ballroom” is highly recommended for any serious record collector who not only likes Andrew Jackson Jihad but appreciates folk, punk, rock, indie, and altogether original music. Get your copy from Asian Man Records while they last. Available on LP or digital download. And if I’m not mistaken, the pre-order period for this release is now over and it can simply be ordered normally.