LIVE REVIEW: Andrew Jackson Jihad, Think Tank @ Digital, Newcastle

Andrew Jackson Jihad playing at Think Tank @ Digital in Newcastle.
Andrew Jackson Jihad playing at Think Tank @ Digital in Newcastle.

Although it’s taken them over a decade to reach Newcastle, it’s clear the lo-fi recordings of Andrew Jackson Jihad have resonated far beyond their Phoenix, Arizona, base.

As such, the quintet’s city debut on Friday night was witnessed by a healthy Think Tank crowd, each and everyone converted by their rough-and-ready folk-tinged punk and their penchant for wry, quirky lyricism.

Andrew Jackson Jihad playing at Think Tank @ Digital in Newcastle.

Andrew Jackson Jihad playing at Think Tank @ Digital in Newcastle.

What some might not have known is that Newcastle bears its own burgeoning DIY scene, much of which centers around Grainger Street’s Travelling Man comic shop.

And it was one of these bands who kicked off the night in the shape of Skull Puppies; a trio of self-confessed nerds whose inspiration stems chiefly from comics, ginger hair and Dungeons and Dragons.

In Nerd Hutch, their terrific set even housed an ode to the mini-venue established in the shop’s basement, prompting fellow employee Euan Lynn to crash the stage for his own impromptu backing.

The second support slot, meanwhile, was filled by San Jose, California, trio Hard Girls, whose storming showing infused Pavement-like melody with a propulsive post-hardcore punch.

Andrew Jackson Jihad playing at Think Tank @ Digital in Newcastle.

Andrew Jackson Jihad playing at Think Tank @ Digital in Newcastle.

They may have trailed the headliners personnel-wise, yet their din was by some way the night’s loudest.

Although appearing as a five-piece, Andrew Jackson Jihad are essentially based around the core duo of singer/guitarist Sean Bonnette and bassist Ben Gallaty.

Fleshed out with drums, keys and cello, the outfit proceeded to race through an electric set incorporating gems from across their discography.

That meant everything from old favourites such as People II: The Reckoning to tracks from excellent recent albums Knife Man and Christmas Island, with a handful of deeper cuts - notably the delightful Hate Song For Brains - thrown in for good measure.

Californian trio Hard Girls supported Andrew Jackson Jihad at Think Tank @ Digital in Newcastle.

Californian trio Hard Girls supported Andrew Jackson Jihad at Think Tank @ Digital in Newcastle.

Instilled with a wicked strand of self-deprecation, Bonnette’s words also extend to blunt social commentary, not least on American Tune, the gist of which can be ascertained from its key (and surprisingly clean) lyric “I’m a straight white male in America: I’ve got all the luck I need.”

A manic and oddly engaging performer, the frontman’s intensity was exhibited in a solo run through Rejoice; eyes darting frantically across the room while his crowd gleefully recited every last word.

And later he dived among them during the cathartic Big Bird; the gloriously tuneless penultimate cry of a show which above all proved the joy and comradeship which can bud from a sloppy homespun aesthetic.

Local band Skull Puppies were the opening act for Andrew Jackson Jihad at Think Tank @ Digital in Newcastle.

Local band Skull Puppies were the opening act for Andrew Jackson Jihad at Think Tank @ Digital in Newcastle.