Typically I am the friend that goes on the search for a night of nostalgia at a concert while dragging everyone else along for the ride. Last night was the opposite. I saw first hand the power of nostalgia and the power of music and to say it was a beautiful thing would be an understatement. After a quick bit to eat and one too many drinks (why do I feel like this is always how my blogs start), my friend Jessica and I walked to The Varsity for the Aly & AJ show. Yes, go ahead and laugh. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit but after I was stopped and complimented a couple of times on my D4th of July shirt (local punk festival I was at on Saturday headlined by Dillinger Four) by the staff, I felt a bit more comfortable in the unknown surrounding that is a pop show.
Kicking the night off right at 7:30 was Rainsford. I had never heard of the headliner (okay, I’ve heard there name but knew less than nothing about them) and had definitely never heard of the opener but that didn’t matter because as soon as I stepped into The Varsity my eyes were glued to the stage and my jaw on the floor. Rainsford (born Rainey Qualley) has a voice of an angel. Sounds dramatic, I know, but seriously this woman’s voice was beyond impressive. The range was drastic and the emotion she emitted was stunning. Beyond the clearly talented voice, the music of Rainsford wasn’t typical. Sure, it was pop and cutesy or whatever but it was almost minimalist in a way. There wasn’t much to it but, because of her stunning voice, it was powerful and full of everything. I know that none of these words make sense together but Rainsford was just one of those acts that I don’t know why I liked (hell, I should have hated it) but it was absolutely beautiful and I just can’t bash beauty.
Not quite pop, not quite R&B, not quite indie but a little bit of each of those wrapped in a bow of shining personality and cuteness, Rainsford’s set was quick and definitely left me wanting more. She promised that she would be at the merch table after her set and, before the last night even finished ringing through the speakers, there she was. Much like when she was on stage, while she stood behind the merch booth signing various items for her adorning fans, I just couldn’t take my eyes off her. There was something so genuine about her smile and the way she asked every fan their name before signing something and making sure she got the spelling right. I’ve seen up and coming pop princesses and, let me tell you, they don’t act like this. Not only is her music deeper than generic, her personality is deep and genuine. Clearly not my cup of tea but, again, I fell in love with Rainsford last night and truly can’t wait to see her shoot to the top.
Headlining the show packed with college aged females and the boyfriends they dragged along was Aly & AJ. As I mentioned, I had heard the name before but knew less than nothing about these guys. The inside scoop I got over dinner from my friend definitely helped me understand this pop duo a bit more. They were the girls in Disney’s original movie (you know, like Johnny Tsunami and Smart House) Cow Belle’s. Now, I’m a couple years older than the friend I was with so I had never seen Cow Belle’s but knowing that they were Disney original movie stars kind of said everything that needed to be said.
After twenty minutes of recording cheering sounds (yeah, I caught onto that… come on guys) the duo took the stage with their backing band to a roar of real applause and wasted no time jumping into what would turn into a quick yet powerful set. Although the fake applause prior to the set and the bright yellow sign advertising meet and greets for $100 (one of my biggest freaking pet peeves- if I teach you anything in this blog please let it be that you should NEVER have to pay to meet someone you look up to), I couldn’t help but smile as I watched my friend re-live her middle school and early high school years. Sure, the lyrics seemed cheesy to me and I definitely can’t relate in this day and age but seeing everyone else around me scream along to songs that truly shaped their lives was more than enough to keep me entertained.
There’s wasn’t much production behind Aly & AJ’s show which was a bit surprising to me but it was a good surprise. Much like Rainsford, as much as I wanted to hate every minute of Aly & AJ’s set, I just couldn’t. After a ten year break, it was obvious that these two women were more than thankful to have any crowd at all. It was also obvious that they were extremely thankful to have a crowd that actually wanted to hear the new songs and not just scream along to the old ones. The new songs blended in perfectly to the older ones but definitely had a sense of maturity that the old songs lacked. There are certain bands that can follow you through a lifetime and, even with that ten year break, it’s clear that Aly & AJ are one of those groups for many people.
Last night wasn’t for me but being able to see one of my best friends have a moment and be in her element was more than enough to make it enjoyable. Will she ever see the video I took of her dancing and singing? Only time will tell.