AJR w/ Johnny Balik
The Crocodile, Seattle, WA

If you happened to be one of its 21 million views back in 2013, you probably remember AJR’s track “I’m Ready,” which opens with a sample from a Spongebob episode. Nearly 4 years later, and with a slightly more mature sound, the trio of brothers sold out every stop of their first US headlining tour, finishing it off with an energetic night at The Crocodile in Seattle.

Opening the night was Johnny Balik, a pop performer with higher vocals like Quinn XCII. His quick set had the crowd happily swaying along to some cute love songs.

Since their 15 minutes of fame with “I’m Ready,” AJR (Adam, Jack, Ryan) has released two albums and a handful of EPs, yet none have made quite the splash that first single did. Their sound has remained similar through these past few years in the sense that while it remains in the pop genre, they continue to mix quirky samples into upbeat tracks ready to be jumped around to.

To start the performance, Jack mysteriously came on stage silently showing the crowd a metronome on an iPad. As the clicking slowly morphed into the opening of “Overture,” the crowd cheered loudly and listened intently to the overview of the night mixed into one track.

The night flipped between intense party tracks like “I’m Not Famous,” “Three-Thirty,” and “Drama,” and more heart-felt ones like “Call My Dad” and “Turning Out.” The energetic ones really brought out the best part of the band. They were meticulous throughout with layers and layers of instrumental loops and distorted versions of Jack’s vocals, which is all clear both on their albums and live. What you can’t get through headphones though is the pure happiness and excitement witnessed via the crowd struggling to match Jack hyperactively bouncing around the stage and singing to fans.

The slower songs definitely didn’t suffer under the others’ shadow though. During a brief break between songs, Adam explained how “Turning Out” was one of his favorite songs they’ve ever written and, as soon as the first chorus ended, it was instantly clear why. While most of the night didn’t hold a significant amount of emotional weight (“No Grass Today,” for example), this single track more than made up for it with heavy lyrics and a tear-jerking performance.

Among many great tracks from their albums, AJR’s performance also brought in some interesting aspects. From drum interludes on 5-gallon bucket to a remix of “Lollipop,” to teaching the crowd step by step how they make a remix, the performance was constantly engaging.

The night was short and the crowd was small, but those who did catch that glimpse into AJR’s live performance were surely a lucky bunch, one of the best performances Seattle has seen in a while. With a funny dynamic between the brothers, and the goal of keeping everything as real and genuine as possible, the trio have managed to produce songs and a set that is well worth more than they’ll probably ever charge for a ticket.

Review and photos by Lulu Dawson


Johnny Balik