AJR26

AJR live in Detroit, 2024 (photo by Gabriella Csapo).

The anticipation was obvious, as fans lined up around the block at Little Caesars Arena for a night of high-energy performances. With a lineup featuring rising stars Almost Monday, the sweet and soulful mxmtoon, and headliners AJR, the evening promised a diverse musical experience that catered to a wide range of tastes and that could appeal to all ages. For most shows, it’s fairly easy to nail down the artists fanbase and general demographic, but the spectrum of “fan” I saw here was unmatched, with kids as young as 4 or 5 singing along, to fans well into their 70s, there’s something about this lineup of artists that speaks to the masses.

Almost Monday is an indie-pop band hailing from San Diego, California. The band was formed in 2018 by college friends Dawson Daugherty (vocals), Luke Fabry (bass), Cole Clisby (guitar), and the later added Daniel Griffo (drums). They initially started performing at local venues and quickly garnered attention for their catchy melodies and energetic performances. Almost Monday’s rise to fame began with the release of their debut single “Broken People” in 2019, which caught the attention of both fans and critics. Their sound, characterized by upbeat rhythms and infectious hooks, reminds us of the “Gooey” era of Glass Animals with a dash of Cage the Elephant to create a sound that’s uniquely their own. They have that classic Cali sound, sans the typical LA “vibe.”

 

The night kicked off with Almost Monday and from the moment they stepped on stage, the four exuded an undeniable energy that instantly engaged the crowd. I was familiar with Almost Monday, as one of their media team members used to be a Detroit local, so I was eager to check them out. Their set was a delightful mix of upbeat anthems, catchy choruses, and silly dance moves with highlights including “Can’t Slow Down” and “Tidal Wave.” The band’s tight musicianship and charismatic stage presence made for an impressive opening act, setting the stage and prepping the crowd for mxmtoon.

Almost Monday Setlist:

  • is it too late?
  • can’t slow down
  • cough drops
  • only wanna dance
  • tidal wave
  • sunburn
  • sun keeps on shining
  • life goes by

Almost Monday photos (all photos by Gabriella Csapo):

 

Following Almost Monday was mxmtoon, who brought a different yet equally captivating vibe to the arena. Maia, known professionally as mxmtoon, is a Chinese-American singer-songwriter, YouTuber, and social media personality. Known for her deeply personal lyrics and soothing voice, mxmtoon created an intimate atmosphere despite the large venue. She connected with the audience through her storytelling, sharing the inspirations behind songs like her 2019 hit “prom dress” and “i hate texas.” Her sweetness and genuinity shined as she repeatedly mentioned how “cool” it was to be playing to an LCA crowd, state that the last time she was in Detroit, she was playing a 500 capacity venue. You could tell she was loving every second of sharing her music with a crowd that size, smiling almost the entire set.

mxmtoon Setlist:

  • frown
  • prom dress
  • sad disco
  • i hate texas
  • coming of age
  • dance (end of the world)
  • mona lisa

mxmtoon photos:

Before we get into the set, I do have to mention that AJR’s “walkout” song “Swimming Pools” by Kendrick Lamar was a bit of a surprise, but a delightful one at that. Those who have been keeping up with the Kendrick vs. Drake beef can appreciate that even AJR has taken a subtle side in the matter.

The excitement reached its peak as the lights dimmed and AJR took the stage, showcasing a massive projection of a hand while performers were dressed in the same outfit, tricking the audience into believing lead singer Jack (the ‘J’ in AJR) was somewhere on stage. Known for their innovative blend of pop, electronic, and orchestral elements, the band did not disappoint. From the opening notes of “Maybe Man” to the encore anthem “Weak,” AJR delivered a high-energy performance that had the entire arena on their feet. The energy Jack carried across the stage was something spectacular – from running across the stage, to jumping out from underneath it, the energy was infectious. I don’t think a single person sat down the entire show. One of the standout moments was their performance of “Sober Up,” featuring an emotional sing-along where the audience outsang AJR. The band’s interaction with the crowd was a highlight throughout the night, as they frequently paused to share stories, address crowd members, and express their gratitude for the fans’ support

The band’s dynamic visuals and creative stage production added to the overall spectacle, making each song feel like a unique experience. As an ex-set designer, I’m always eager to see what artists do when they swing through larger venues. I was blown away by their innovative use of vertical space – as a band of 3, it can be tough to command a stage as large as the one at LCA – but AJR (and their design team) used vertical space, coupled with some projectors and a flying rig for Jack to keep the audience engaged, always wondering where Jack was going to pop up next.

AJR Setlist:

  • Maybe Man
  • Sober Up
  • Yes I’m a Mess
  • I Won’t / Birthday Party
  • The DJ Is Crying for Help
  • God Is Really Real
  • The Good Part
  • Bang!
  • Inertia
  • Touchy Feely Fool
  • Karma
  • Turning Out / Turning Out Pt. ii / Turning Out Pt. iii
  • World’s Smallest Violin
  • Steve’s Going to London
  • Burn the House Down
  • Way Less Sad
  • Don’t Throw Out My Legos
  • 100 Bad Days
  • Weak
  • 2085

AJR Photots:

 

The concert at Little Caesars Arena was a testament to the diverse talent within the current music scene and how combining various artists and sounds can benefit all parties on a tour. Almost Monday’s infectious energy, mxmtoon’s intimate storytelling, and AJR’s explosive performance combined to create an unforgettable evening. Each act brought something unique to the table, ensuring that there was something for everyone to enjoy.

In conclusion, the show was a resounding success, leaving fans with memories of an exhilarating night of music and connection. For those who attended, it was a perfect blend of emerging talent and established artistry, and a clear indication that the future of music is in good hands with artists like Almost Monday, mxmtoon, and AJR leading the way.

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