Homecoming is a big part of NAU tradition and has been celebrated every year by students, faculty, friends and family since 1924. Due to current events, the university has moved Homecoming celebrations to a virtual setting. ASNAU hosted a concert featuring indie pop trio AJR which helped kick off Homecoming week Nov. 5 through Zoom.
ASNAU chief of staff Shelby Varner said ASNAU wanted to plan a virtual concert to keep the Homecoming celebration alive.
“As the undergraduate student government, not only are we advocates for the students, but we also plan campus-wide events,” Varner said via email. “Every year, we hold a Lumberjack Concert Series, and we wanted to keep that tradition alive by hosting a virtual one.”
AJR consists of brothers Adam, Jack and Ryan Metzger who gained popularity since 2005 from their hit songs “Sober Up” and “Bang!” The official music video for “Sober Up” has 34 million views on YouTube as of Nov. 5 and peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard charts under the Alternative Streaming Songs category in 2018, while “Bang!” was released earlier this year and peaked at No. 2. Other AJR songs that have gained spots on this chart include “Burn the House Down” and “100 Bad Days.”
The event started with a Q&A where Varner asked the band questions that students typed in the Zoom chat.
As the Q&A portion of the concert was wrapping up, AJR lead vocalist Jack Metzger gave students some advice before a short intermission.
“Being in college is obviously very strange right now,” Jack Metzger said. “Obviously, try to enjoy it as much as you can. I tell everyone it’s hard to find a silver lining this time, but this is going to be over at some point. You guys will have one of the best stories to tell people about how you persevered in college.”
The concert portion of the event began with a performance of “Next Up Forever.” This song was featured on their third album “Neotheater” in 2019. The band has since posted a YouTube video on their channel where they go in-depth about the creation and inspiration for their self-produced album.
According to music company BMG, AJR earned a No.1 spot on both the Independent Albums and Top Rock Albums Billboard charts in 2019. The pop trio also landed a No. 2 spot on Alternative Albums, No. 4 on Top Album Sales and No. 8 on Digital Albums, Tastemaker Albums and Billboard 200 charts. Neotheater is AJR’s highest charting album to date.
Jack Metzger said during the Q&A that his favorite song to perform is “Weak” because audience members always have a great reaction to it. The song currently has 64 million views on YouTube and is their most watched music video.
Sophomore Cheyenne Swearingen said that this was her first time attending a virtual concert.
“It was pretty great, it was kind of unreal,” Swearingen said. “It felt kind of like when you’re on Instagram and someone livestreams and you’re just like, ‘Oh! It’s not anything special,’ but then you realize that it was just for NAU students. It made it feel a little bit more special.”
Swearingen said she not only enjoyed the music, but also admired the Q&A because it was more personal to the audience.
During the Q&A, AJR was asked which song was each band member’s favorite and they all had different answers.
Ryan Metzger started off the conversation by saying his favorite song was “Dear Winter” because the song resonated with him.
In an iHeartRadio article, Ryan Metzger opened up about the meaning behind “Dear Winter.” He wrote the slow ballad after having tough luck with the dating world. Jack Metzger said he enjoyed producing “Sober Up” because there was no trouble with writer’s block when creating the song.
Adam Metzger said their song “Come Hang Out” was his overall favorite and one of the best songs they’ve written.
Junior Ciera Spain said she’s been a fan of AJR for a few years now and was happy with the performance.
“My initial thoughts were great. I thought it went well, and it was a great time with some friends,” Spain said in an email interview. “It was well-put together, and I enjoyed the Q&A in the beginning.”
Spain said that her favorite songs from AJR include “Bang!,” “Burn the House Down” and “100 Bad Days.”
“100 Bad Days” peaked at No. 7 in 2019 on Billboard 100 under Alternative Streaming Songs and appears on the album “Neotheater.” It was nominated for Choice Rock Song at the Teen Choice Awards.
NAU students still kept the Lumberjack spirit and tradition alive by celebrating virtually. AJR opened up to students about where the band gets their inspiration from, the meaning behind some of their songs and advice for all NAU students during this time.