Show Review: Say Anything, AJJ, and Greet Death at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, IL

Michigan shoegazers, Greet Death, kicked off the night as the Aragon Ballroom slowly filled in with people with their laid-back vibe and easy-going tone filled with fuzzy guitars and melodic sound. With an extremely gentle side to thir music, it can be pretty easy to overlook Greet Death, but I implore you to dig further beyond the initial surface as you’ll find that Midwest enduring spirit in their music that unique only to this area of the country. While there is a sense of betrayal, bitterness, and sorrow in their music, there is also a flame of perseverance too. This sense of duality and recognition of one’s strengths and weaknesses carries into Greet Death’s lyrics and song structures shining through the distorted, shoegazey instrumentals and unique vocal stylings. Just like the Midwest, there’s more to meets the eye for Greet Death.

I’m not sure if there is a better opener to have for Say Anything than perhaps AJJ. American folk punk brought their upbeat, political and socially charged depression punk to the Aragon for an energetic, humorous, but also ominously dark and serious set. That’s exactly how AJJ prefers it though. Originally known as Andrew Jackson Jihad, AJJ are modern mainstays in the folk/folk punk sub-genre for last 20 years. One of those projects where depending on which era you saw them perform will lend you a unique experience to only that moment in time, because as time goes on, AJJ changes and evolves as they too get older and wiser. As they themselves age, so does their music, not that their older material wasn’t well received. The crowd sang along just as much to their original classics as their newer material, rather you can simply sense and see in their performance and music now how the once young, youthful punks have grown up, but this doesn’t mean they’ll settle down. AJJ still tackles the same subject matters and topics from when they were young, just now with more flare and nuance while also incorporating new elements like issues of age and maturity to the mix.

In an era of anniversary tours becoming the norm happening left and right multiple times a year, it can be hard to get excited for whatever the most recently announced one or justify going to them, but when Say Anything announced an anniversary tour in celebration of 20 years of their debut record, …Is a Real Boy, you quickly make the exception. While anniversary shows aren’t a new concept for Say Anything, they usually have gone the route of only playing the album partially or dividing it up between multiple nights, so this time them performing the entire record in full each night, plus their newer tracks was definitely an extra special treat for fans. When Say Anything decided to (seemingly) wrap it up in 2019, fans were devasted that one of the most pivotal emo acts wouldn’t be around anymore. Thankfully last year saw Say Anything make their return playing their first shows in four years and then embarking on a massive tour for their breakout record making every “elder emos” dream come true all at once.

Performing miles above anyone else, you would think Say Anything had something to prove to the world or show everyone that Say Anything can still step out here and kill it every night. While that isn’t the root motivation for the emo act, Say Anything does seem almost to be back with a vengeance. Before originally calling it quits in 2019, Say Anything was touring relentlessly with members struggling to keep up behind the scenes. Pair this with touring becoming harder and slower in 2019 than smack the pandemic on top of everything, it’s no surprise it’s been so many years since Say Anything has really been active.

Now in the year 2024, Say Anything are just as relevant as they were in 2004, although maybe in a different way. When …Is a Real Boy came out, the alternative and emo scene was really peaking and would continue to for years after. This was when Hot Topic was still Hot Topic packed with teenagers, VH1 was still poppin, and Warped Tour was the highlight of every young kid’s summer. To no surprise, it didn’t take long for all of this and for this new alternative/emo style of music to become marketable, so when Say Anything came onto the scene it felt like a massive breath of fresh air for people as they were both familiar, but also vastly different from anything else at the time. A journey filled with spoken word, vulgar lyrics, and chaotic instrumental moments, all meshing together to form an unconventionally honest, truthful, and iconic record that felt more like a journey. 20 years later, and this record really does still stand the test of time made evident by the vast age disparities of the crowd ranging from young teenagers to people pushing their 40s now. An almost mini-revival within the wider revival of alternative/metal/rock music occurring right now, I don’t think Say Anything could have timed this any better. People are looking for honesty, vulnerability, and truthfulness in their music now more than ever…and Say Anything has returned to provided exactly that.

Say Anything


Greet Death


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