Cinema at the 9:30 Club

By: Natalie Leinbach

Saint Motel
Image via Amazon music

AJ Jackson, the lead singer of Saint Motel, is a composer, filmmaker, singer, guitarist, pianist, creative director, actor, and storyteller. All of these sides of him and more shone through at the 9:30 Club.

To say that the venue was electric before the live show even started is an understatement. The band filled the ears of listeners with pre-show tunes consisting of movie soundtrack music, jazz, and oldies, paying homage to the band’s humble beginnings when lead vocalist, AJ Jackson, and lead guitarist, Aaron Sharp, met in film school.

The classical instruments and theatrical jams were the perfect way to hype up the crowd for experiencing Saint Motel’s Motion Picture Show. The tour was conceived along with the band’s newest music release, The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Part 1. This EP is part of their three-part project, designed to emulate the Hero’s Journey, a story framework told in three parts. Each concert is infused with film concepts to bolster the holistic motion picture idea.

The band’s cinematic theme carried through the entirety of their performance, starting with an omniscient narrator’s voice reading from a screenplay. The slugline placed the characters, or band, in the “exterior,” on Mt. Everest at “day.” Suddenly, from the front right of the stage, Jackson popped up wearing a huge red winter coat, holding a gas lantern. He dramatically made his way to the stage - escaping from a smoke machine produced avalanche - where he shed his coat and launched into “Cold Cold Man,” the fourth track from their 2014 My Type EP.

The narrator spoke over the speakers throughout the show, placing the performers in different settings, just like the change of scenes in a screenplay. After Everest, the scene was set on a battleground marching through cannon fire for “Dear Dictator.” Then, the stage was placed in outer space, where Jackson climbed into an inflatable raft that was passed across the crowd.

Saint Motel is known for its thematic shows, but none seem more fitting than this one. The band’s roots in Chapman University’s Film School clearly played a key role in the formation of their newest project. The perfect mix of new and old, their show was carefully crafted to feature allusions to nostalgia. They covered “Right Back Where We Started” and referenced their roots often. The band used this tactic to highlight how far they have come, constantly expressing their gratefulness to their loyal fanbase.

Their thanks mirrored another overarching and uplifting message of rebirth. The band even acknowledged that unique cathartic feeling you get when you are at a concert and “in that spirit” they sang “Born Again.”

The show was detail-oriented, from the costumes to the storyline, to the little screens showing lips, eyes, and noses during “Puzzle Pieces.” Needless to say, if you have a chance to witness one of their masterpieces, you should. And, with only the first part of their three-part Motion Picture Soundtrack released so far, you better believe Saint Motel has more tricks up their sleeve.