Written By Eddie Ferranti
Cheering for the underdog has always been a passion for me no matter if it is in sports, life, etc. One such band happens to fit in that category in the form of Raleigh, North Carolina based band, American Aquarium. Our Left Coast bud Julie Arkenstone hooked us up when they rolled into the venerable McGonigel’s Mucky Duck for 2 shows on a 73 date world tour.
In Houston, at this joint, if you are playing two shows in one night, you are doing something right for sure. Rose and I had no clue that the place would be SRO for the late show and it was well worth it.
Front man B.J. Barnham left little to the imagination in more ways than one expressing his opinions. Whether it be in songs or his potty mouth banter between tunes this guy was a hoot. AA is backing their latest independently released eighth album, Wolves, which left critics raving and is the follow-up to the band’s 2012 acclaimed Burn, Flicker, Die. The Wall Street Journal had this to say: “Wolves is a collection of 10 scruffy songs shot through with an abundance of roots-rock grit and wistful, road worn lyrics.”
They formed in 2006 taking its name from the Wilco song “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” and getting noticed with its 2006 debut Antique Heart. The underdog part fits in that these guy have tirelessly toured over 250 dates a year! Mostly just enough to pay their way around, too. They include guitarists Ryan Johnson and Colin Dimeo, bassist Bill Corbin, drummer Kevin McClain, Whit Wright on keyboard and of course Barnham on acoustic stirrin’ up everything he could from the beginning.
He showed a great dry wit saying stuff like doing two shows in one night made them feel like Celine Dion! A bit too much was said in absolutely slaying a drunken woman who deserved to be told to shut up in more ways than one! Commenting on Jacksonville, Florida while introducing the song “Jacksonville” he said: “Sadness was born there.” Another city song, “Wichita Falls” he said it is just a plain shit hole of a town, but the song rocked big time. That is what this six piece can really do is pick it and put it down rousing up a very loyal and sing-a-long crowd in the process. Barnham’s lyrics are full of championing the underdog’s struggles as they strive to keep things together against the odds-just like the band itself who almost quit, but decided to lay it all out one more time on Wolves and scored in the process.
Other highlights in the packed house were “Man I’m Supposed To Be” with smokin’ electric guitar leads swapped back and forth over Barnham’s Springsteen like voice, “I Got You Babe” , “Losing Side of Twenty-Five” and burn the place down ender “Burn Flicker Die”. When I first heard their CD it came at you and sounded even better performed live. A rare quality indeed. Led by Barnham’s fearless and unceasingly compelling in your face attitude, American Aquarium’s spirit is as indominable as ever. They actually are suited to play much bigger arenas and from the feel we got that is in their future. HMR on the trail of these guys no doubt and hope they make it back sooner rather than later…Peace! Go love some live music soon!