Scene :: American Aquarium :: New Brookland Tavern [Columbia, S.C.; 05.16.07]

One of my favorites up-and-comers in the alt. country crowd, here's what I had to say about American Aquarium in the Free Times prior to their show:

No stranger to the New Brookland stage, Raleigh’s American Aquarium return to bring us some songs that go well with a drink. With the intensity of a young Paul Westerberg, singer B.J. Barham drawls and yells through rocking alt-country tunes about girls, God and getting drunk. While these aren’t new subjects, the approach is fresh, burning with vitriol, whiskey and the urgency of youth. With Son Volt and Wilco making music that appeals to my parents more than it does me, American Aquarium are the meek who shall inherit the alt-country earth. Miss this show at your own peril.
Well, apparently, no one listened to my warning, but you wouldn't know it by the great show that these guys put on Wednesday night.

The evening started off with a nice surprise when I showed up and saw local group Due East setting up on stage. They had just gotten added to the bill the night before, and I was convinced more than ever that they are one of the most promising acts in Columbia right now. And being the class-act guys that they are, they stuck around when most of their friends had gone just to see American Aquarium play. It's the plight of the touring indie band - the opening band brings all their friends, but their friends don't stick around to see the headliner. American Aquarium handled it perfectly, though. They tore through their set, laying it all on the altar for whoever was listening. By the second song, a rip-roaring rendition of 'Telling A Lie,' they had a small group down front (including myself) in the palm of their hands.

I've seen BJ and Co. live a few times now, and I don't know if the ever-entertaining BJ just had a few extra shots of whiskey or what, but he was especially entertaining - stomping and dancing through the fast ones and some of the slow ones too. One of my favorite moments came during a beer break for the band when BJ was playing by himself. It was a song I don't think I've ever heard them play before, and I stupidly forgot to ask what it was. It was a song about, as BJ put it, 'when a girl leaves you for a guy fifteen years older than you, and that's really messed up 'cause she's already five years younger than you' (paraphrasing here, but close). When he hit the line, 'You fuck like a woman, but you love like a little girl,' his voice was full of such venom that everyone burst out in a collective 'Hell, yeah!' type of yell.

They closed with a song from their upcoming album, a boisterous number that reminded me of a Buddy Holly song done by Uncle Tupelo. It was fairly incredible and a good indication of how amazing their new album is going to be when it hits. Oh, and did I forget to mention that two of the band members were playing with the band for the second time last night? And they both wailed like they had been doing it for years. They are definitely one of the nicest and hardest-working bands I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Check out their myspace page and go see them in a town near you. I would go to the show Monday night in Charlotte myself, but I'm stuck in Columbia tending bar. Guess I'll just have to have a whiskey in their honor.

American Aquarium Lover Too Late (Live)

Due East Dream of Two

Photos by J. Sharpe.

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