“…have you ever been to Denver on a Tuesday?“
American Aquarium are a rock band with country luck. They were raised on small town hymns, their women lie and cheat, they drink a lot of whiskey, and their parents are disappointed in their decisions. Their lives consist of driving 23 hours from one town to the next; through blizzards, road closures and Wyoming State Troopers, just to be upstaged by “trivia night” at the local BBQ joint/bowling alley/music hall. Not only that, at the first sight of a little cash, their guitarist hops a flight to go get high with his cousins while the rest of the crew cross the country in a van that “smells as bad” as the rest of them look. It’s a tough life for these boys from Raleigh, North Carolina.
On the flipside, it’s gotta feel pretty damn good to take the stage at 11:00pm on a Tuesday night in Denver and have the audience know all the words to all your songs — especially the ones from Burn.Flicker.Die..
Their most recent album (produced by Jason Isbell) has been on repeat since the day Ninebullets labeled it “Essential Listening”. And while I agree that we arn’t all rock stars and we can’t all relate to “road songs”, I would argue that the guys in American Aquarium arn’t rock stars either, and these arn’t “road songs” as much as “life songs”. Or should I say “lifestyle songs”? If your lifestyle involves going to shows, hanging out at dive bars and drinking with friends, then you should have no problem relating to the material on Burn.Flicker.Die. — or any other American Aquarium album for that matter. Shit, even if you’ve never been cheated on, you’d have to be half-dead not to raise your glass and sing along with “I Hope He Breaks Your Heart”. Even the chicks who’ve cheated were singing along with that one!
“…people don’t believe us when we say it’s a bowling alley, bbq joint and music venue…thank you for running Narnia for us.“
You might laugh at the idea of seeing a band at a place like Moe’s, but I assure you, there is no better way to see a band than in a dive bar with a handful of people in attendance. It becomes something more than just a show. You’re not just seeing a band crank out a bunch of songs, you are getting to know the musicians. You’re making a connection that’s impossible to make by listening to the album at home. There were actual conversations throughout the set last night. We heard the back-stories that led to each song. There was encouragement from the crowd. Shots were traded back and forth. Some dude kept throwing personal belongings onto the stage for no apparent reason (boots, socks, keys, phone, hat) and it was totally ok. We were all in on the joke.
Going to shows like this makes me remember why I started going to shows in the first place. Obviously it’s about the music, if I didn’t like the music I wouldn’t be there, but it’s also about a sense of community. American Aquarium brought that to Denver on Tuesday night — a Tuesday night when thousands of misguided people spent hundreds of dollars to see Bon Jovi perform a sterile, choreographed show at the Pepsi Center.
I wasn’t at the Pepsi Center, so I can’t speak with authority, but I’d bet the $8 I spent to see American Aquarium that I made the right choice. The 40-50 of us at Moe’s had a better time, heard better songs, and felt better about ourselves the next morning — because we hung out with good people making good music. Bon Jovi is a brand, American Aquarium are a band — and that’s really the difference here. The show reminded me of those first times I saw Lucero and Drive-By Truckers. It reminded me of recent Arliss Nancy shows. These are the bands that make going to shows worthwhile. And by the way they played their hearts out, I’m guessing we make it worthwhile for them as well.
Ain’t Going to the Bar Tonight
Cape Fear River
Look At Miss Ohio (Gillian Welch)
Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart (Whiskeytown)
Lonely Ain’t Easy
I Hope He Breaks Your Heart