Aly and AJ @ Governors Ball (Festival Review by Ciaran C.)

With the 2022 Governors Ball celebrating an overall spirit of change – with its relocation to Citi Field and return to its original date for the first time in two years – Aly and AJ’s set perfectly embodied this by taking a significant departure from their norms. From their outfits to their setlist, their performance was heavily reminiscent of the hippie era and its famous Summer of Love: balancing comedically large glasses of Aperol Spritzes between acoustic and electric guitars, they mainly performed songs from their 2021 album a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet gets you out and then into the sun. Paying homage to the sounds of early ‘70s soft rock (such as Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young), a touch of the beat toed the line between contemporary indie and vintage rock, with Aly and AJ’s stories of personal vulnerability and journeys of self-discovery seeping through their background band’s melange of synth sounds and electric guitar riffs.

If the lyrics couldn’t hint you to the noticeable changes for Aly and AJ’s musical and personal lives, then their attitude on set definitely did: they seemed far more comfortable and authentic, being more open with the crowd and allowing themselves to experiment in real-time. Especially at the end of a 10-year hiatus and a subsequent tour for a touch of the beat, their presence reflected significant maturity and growth, both in their sounds and their stage presence. No longer are they under the tight grip that holds all Disney child star musicians, instead, they are free to reinvent themselves and their sounds. Indeed, this set embodied change.

Though I found myself greatly appreciative of this, I don’t know if the entire crowd did as well: the audience seemed to know Aly and AJ as the early-2000s Girl Duo of their childhood. I frequently saw audience members confusedly bobbing around to the music, descending into quick murmurs after the start of every song. Between these murmurs, I realized that it seemed that much of the crowd wanted to hear a live rendition of Potential Breakup Song, their 2007 hit that recently rose to become a viral TikTok song. As their set went further on, more and more people left as they realized that this Aly and AJ wasn’t the one they knew: by the encore, it was incredibly obvious that they weren’t going to play Potential Breakup Song, triggering a semi-exodus of the crowd from the pit. People seemed disappointed, with a few people remarking that they’d wasted their time. This crowd reaction and their desire for older sounds contrasted strangely with Aly and AJ’s desire to reinvent themselves, which left a peculiar damper on the overall experience of this otherwise revolutionary set for the duo.

Review by Ciaran C., Photo by Laura T.

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