It’s a Friday night, in mid August. American Aquarium roll into town in brand new digs, a big, fancy rock ‘n’ roll glorified tour bus, pulling a nondescript gear trailer. The bus is parked behind the beautiful Tower Theatre in the Uptown 23rd District of Oklahoma City. I just finished an interview (view here: https://americanahighways.org/2019/08/19/interview-bj-barham/) with American Aquarium’s BJ Barham, who prior to that, had just completed a private house concert across town. As I settle into the rest of the audience, I’m thinking about how busy a guy Barham is. Writing songs, recording albums, designing merch, traveling across the country, interviews, daily high energy performances, meet & greets, husband, and dad. That’s a busy schedule.
I’ve come tonight to see my third American Aquarium show at the Tower Theatre. Honestly, there’s no place I’d rather be, and as packed as the Tower is, I’m always a tad surprised it’s not even more crowded. Barham is without question a captivating performer. This evening from the first notes of “Casualties” to the final notes of “Louisiana Beauty Queen,” Barham’s energy level infects you, and the lyrics and songs take you on an journey not unlike an emotional roller coaster. Many of these songs are personal, some touched with a bit of darkness, other with hope. Regardless, Barham presents them with every ounce of his being as does the rest of the band. You get your money’s worth. American Aquarium sees to that. They could play the exact same show every time, and I think I’d still show up. It’s that good of a show.
The setlists remain similar night to night with a few substitutions (“Jacksonville,” “Work Conquers All”) here and there. There’s a core base of songs though, one that you’re generally guaranteed to get each night. That’s not a problem when those songs are the quality of “I Hope He Breaks Your Heart,” “Wolves,” and “Burn. Flicker. Die.” Tonight there was even a special treat in that Barham’s first encore of the night was an acoustic “Day I Learned To Lie To You,” a new song tentatively set to be on the band’s new album, Lamentations scheduled for April ’20. There might have been a little bit of rust tonight, including a forgotten verse, but these things happen at the beginning of a tour. By the time they roll into your area I can almost guarantee they’ll be firing on all cylinders. I’m already looking forward to my next show. American Aquarium is constantly on tour. Find out more information including those perpetual tour dates here: http://www.americanaquarium.com/
Opening the show tonight and this tour’s run of shows was the fantastic Carl Anderson. Hailing from Charlottesville, VA, and now Nashville based, Anderson played a stripped down acoustic set of extremely impressive songs. From the optimism of “Ten Different Reasons” to the clever self depreciation of “She Took Everything,” I found myself really listening, wanting to hear these lyrics. They seemed important, somehow brushed by a greatness inspired by great songwriters of the past. Unfortunately, the Friday night audience was in social mode, and at times tried to drown out Anderson and his guitar. God bless the one woman who frustrated with the constant chatter, during a particularly moving song, yelled out “Shut the fuck up!” Anderson, without missing a beat, thanked the courageous heroine before jumping right back into the song. It’s true, not all heroes wear capes.
Anderson has a current EP available appropriately titled, “You Can Call Me Carl”. I highly recommend picking one up over at his webpage, which you can find here: http://www.thecarlanderson.com/