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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

An Aly & AJ concert review, ‘with love from’ The Hustler

Aly & AJ and Miya Folick light up the Mother Church and raise awareness about gun safety.
Barrie Barto
Aly & AJ on stage at the Ryman, as photographed on April 10, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto)

When I saw that the pop duo behind one of my childhood anthems was performing at the Mother Church, I knew I needed to go. I didn’t know much about Aly & AJ’s other discography, but the two sisters blew me away with their set, and I have since added multiple songs to my playlist. 

Miya Folick, an LA-based alternative singer-songwriter, opened the show. She began with her song “Dead Body” and followed with “Bad Thing.” She described her third song, “Nothing To See,” as one about losing yourself in a bad relationship — an all too familiar experience for the crowd. The song was slow at first, but the tempo increased throughout, and a lighting change exemplified this transition.

“I don’t know if anyone can relate to just looking back and thinking, ‘Why the hell did I do that?’” Folick said in regard to her song “Nothing To See.” 

Miya Folick sings for the audience at the Ryman, as photographed on April 10, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto)
Miya Folick sings for the audience at the Ryman, as photographed on April 10, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto) (Barrie Barto)

The next two songs were an ode to her parents. The first was called “Mommy,” to which she mentioned how important her parents are to her. She then played a song inspired by her dad, who she lost a few years ago. The song’s lyrics describe her thoughts when she visits the same spaces that her dad once did. 

Before playing her last two songs, Folick referenced the recent expulsion of Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) and Rep. Justin Pearson (D-Memphis) and supported their reinstatement. Jones was reinstated on April 10 and Pearson on April 12, both with unanimous votes. The set ended with memorable songs called “Cockroach” and “Get Out of My House.” 

Between Folick’s set and the beginning of Aly & AJ’s, the Michalka sisters’ mom showed up in the crowd, and fans quickly lined up to meet her. Aly & AJ’s team also took down curtains to unveil the set: a gorgeous golden-themed stage that perfectly accompanied their chic western outfits. The stage lights were enclosed in large flower decals, and the two stood on a golden rug, transforming the Ryman into a beautiful desert sunset.

Aly & AJ opened their set with “Open to Something and That Something Is You,” the first song on their most recent album. After playing a few more songs, the duo mentioned that they last played at the Ryman in 2006. They felt so lucky and honored to be back and asked the audience if anyone was at that show, and a few fans said they were. Aly & AJ noted that the Ryman holds a lot of importance for them and their band since it is such a historic space, making it an honor to play on that stage.  

The crowd was quickly dazzled as the golden fans behind the duo opened up and put on an amazing lighting display. Colors highlighted each sister in their own shade of pink or purple as they sang next to each other. Screens of light narrowed with the beat of the tambourine. As the duo sang about life’s journey, thin beams of light chased each other across the crowd — creating intersections and paths across the benches. 


During the highly anticipated “Potential Breakup Song,” all audience members began to sing along. It was an extra special night for the song because it was AJ’s birthday. The song mentions, “And normally I would just forget that / Except for the fact it was my birthday / My stupid birthday,” to which fans screamed extra loud and held up cutouts of AJ’s face. After she thanked fans when the song ended, the duo continued with the set with their entire new album and many classic 2000s hits from their Disney days. They played songs including “Pretty Places,” “On The Ride” and “Personal Cathedral,” which highlighted the duo’s vocal harmonies. 

Though the pair didn’t have much time to talk with the crowd during their long set list, they took a meaningful pause to chat about their “Pledge to Ask” campaign. They walked the crowd through their own experience with gun violence in 2017 when six people died from a shooting near where their tour bus was parked. They encouraged fans to pledge to ask those at home if they possess unlocked firearms to promote gun safety. Those who completed the pledge were entered to win a meet and greet backstage with Aly & AJ. Similar to Folick, the duo voiced their support for the reinstatement of Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) and Rep. Justin Pearson (D-Memphis).

“Maybe it feels silly, but I truly believe that asking these questions might end up saving your life or a loved one of yours or a friend or family member,” Aly said.

Near the end of the set, Joy Oladokun joined the sisters on stage to perform “Way of Nature Way of Grace,” and the three joined forces again to perform “Rush.” It seemed the show was over, but members of the audience were not ready for the night to end. Fans began to hit the back of the pews and stomp their feet on the ground to create a thundering noise before they began chanting for Aly & AJ to return to the stage for more. 

Aly & AJ, as well as their outstanding band, came back to perform two more songs: “Blue Dress” and “6 Months of Staring Into the Sun.” During “6 Months of Staring Into the Sun,” fans began chanting back and forth to each other, adding their infectious energy to a slow last song. 

“We are able to lean on each other in the good moments, in the bad moments, and I think there is something so special about that,” Aly said to the crowd. 

And the crowd certainly felt the same. After two decades of listening to the pop duo, fans could finally lean on such established artists’ music in person. 

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About the Contributors
Barrie Barto, Photography Director
Barrie Barto ('25) is majoring in medicine, health & society with minors in communication of science & technology and neuroscience in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as a staff photographer. Outside of The Hustler, you can find Barrie cheering on the St. Louis Blues or tracking down the best gluten-free food in Nashville. She can be reached at [email protected].
Sara West, Deputy Photography Director
Sara West ('25) is majoring in psychology in the College of Arts and Science and human and organizational development in Peabody College. Sara loves going to concerts and hopes to enter the music industry after graduating. She also loves thrifting and exploring new places. She can be reached at [email protected].
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