Aly and AJ Create a Sanctuary of Inclusivity

By Isabelle Cruz
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Backstage with Aly & Aj at Irving Plaza.

After a decade long break, sister duo, Aly and AJ Michalka return to the music scene as independent artists and advocates for the LGBTQ community. The duo announced their return with the song, “Take Me,” and later an EP, Ten Years. The sisters’ recent release is their EP, Sanctuary, which they have been promoting the past two months in a North American Tour, along with their work with The Trevor Project – an American non-profit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ youth. Aly and AJ are powerhouses of artistry and fighters of social injustice.

The duo hit the last leg of their tour at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood for two nights.

Opening acts for Aly and AJ were artists Jena Rose and Armors.

Jena Rose warmed up the crowd with her explosive energy, stage presence and raw musical talent. Her vocals really came through during her Britney Spears and Weezer covers “Toxic” and “Island In The Sun.” After her performance, Jena Rose hinted at new music coming this summer and thanked her fans for the support.

“It’s hard being an independent artist and having [fans] by my side means everything,” said Jena Rose.

The second act were OC locals, Armors, who shifted the sound to upbeat beach-like jams with songs like “Who’s Gonna Love Me (When I’m Not Young),” “DOA” and more. Later into the set, lead singer Olen Kittelsen briefly introduced their “debut” six and a half song long album.

“It’s only 17 minutes long so if you hate it you only wasted 17 minutes long,” said Olen Kittelsen.

A memorable part of their set was when Kittelsen, brought out features in the song, Lostboycrow and Olivver the Kid, for their collaborated song, “$20.”

The venue filled up by the time it was Aly and AJ’s set. The walls vibrated as the introduction song began, teasing the audience until the sisters set forth on stage. Many fans, new and OG, were buzzing with excitement for the show, some even returned a second time.

Aly and AJ have been around since 2004 so for some people, this concert was very nostalgic.

“OMG the best part was seeing the whole crowd light up and sing along with every song. The sisters gave their old and new fans a safe place to celebrate life and love, and their message of acceptance and sanctuary radiated through the entire building, getting each member of the crowd off their feet and dancing the night away. To see these two icons back on stage, with so much love between the sisters, it spreads out to everyone who sees them perform,” said @Paulaalexscott.

Another fan @sallyeatscake added, “I’ve been following Aly and Aj since their Disney days. My favorite part was how amazing they sounded live. They sounded really good. I really liked seeing them in their element. They are not only beautiful women they are super talented. I really enjoyed being able to experience that along with others who like their music too.”

With a new synth-pop sound and independent production, it’s no surprise the duo has also been able to pull in some new fans since their comeback in 2018.

“I became a huge fan of Aly and AJ just recently with the release of their EP ‘Ten years.’ I was a casual listener in their Disney days, but it’s been the recent releases that have really pulled me (and my friends) in. In addition to the fashion, lights, and great pop music, my favorite part of the show was their performance of ‘Sanctuary’ because their connection with audience is especially palpable during that song, making the audience feel like an important part of the show,” said Jesse Valadez.

Aly and AJ’s set was a mix of new and old songs that were unforgettable. Some songs they performed include: “Star Maps,” “Take Me,” “Good Love,” “Rush,” “No One,” and many more that did more than  just “fill in” the set. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the duo considering their recent comeback, but I was surprised at their growth and the whole production they put on from the vocals to the music,  to the sheer lyrical talent.

“My favorite part of the show was AJ kept being like really on top of sound and the mechanics of the sound they were making with the levels and volumes of mic v.s. instrument. It really showed their amazing talent and abilities as performers and gave me some true admiration for their craft. Also, them discussing their old and new music, and playing Potential Breakup song,” said @justjohnny_.

And in support of the LGBTQ community, the sisters brought attention to their work with the Trevor Project, asking the audience to sign a petition to end conversion therapy and raise money for the org. So far there are 31,081 supporters and $45,778 raised.

Some were deeply touched by their efforts and raised their flags in unison and respect.

“I loved when they talked about the incredible work the Trevor Project does for LGBTQ+ youth and sang ‘Good Love’ which is their love letter to the queer community. I’ve been listening to Aly and AJ since 2005,” shared @Sarahmaclaughlin.

When the show was coming to an end, Aly and AJ concluded their show with an all-time OG song “Potential Break Up Song.” Overall, I would say that it was such a great experience I am left wishing I had gone to several more shows during the tour. I left the show with the worst case of post-concert withdrawals, but I’m excited to see what’s next in this new chapter.

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