By Joshua Wallace
I had the privilege to attend the American Aquarium show this past Saturday night (09/08) in my home town of Valdosta, GA at Ashley Street Station and it was a good one. This isn’t the first time American Aquarium has been to town, it’s actually the third that I can remember. The last time I saw them in town was 2014 and that was before BJ Barham went sober and with the old lineup. That band was tight and always a good show, but the show I saw this past weekend was best I have ever seen them. This new lineup of American Aquarium is must see if they come to your area. They’re currently touring on the Thing’s Change record. This is in my opinion their best album yet. It will be very high on my Top 50 Albums of 2018 list which will be published in December alongside the list Gary Hayes does.
Justin Kennedy Band
The show started off with the Justin Kennedy Band who played about an hour’s worth of mostly original material and a few select cover songs. They are largely a southern rock group with some country influence. They played a few songs off their current album titled “Outlaw” including the title track, “Rockstar Heart”, “Travelin’ Man”, “Bandaids and Broken Hearts”, “Best I Ever Had” and “Letters”. That last song I mentioned “Letters” was my favorite original of the night. It was a heartfelt ballad that deserves to be heard so check them out live or go find that track on your favorite streaming service. They also did a few select covers which included tracks by Lynyrd Skynyrd and Otis Redding. Don’t sleep on this band if they’re playing near you, Justin Kennedy and company put on a great southern rock show with some good songwriting and killer riffs.
Justin Kennedy jamming a guitar solo
American Aquarium takes the stage
After JKB finished up, American Aquarium took the stage. The band quickly got down to business jumping into a track off their new album titled “The World Is On Fire”. This is a good track to introduce the new band to new audiences with because it showcases the diversity of the band with quieter moments that give way to a rock heavy chorus. It was followed up with another new tune in “Tough Folks” which is another heavy rocker that got the crowd going.
BJ Barham rocks out with Shane Boeker
The band didn’t just stick to new stuff, there were older tracks sprinkled throughout including a good version of “Casualties” and a great version of the local favorite “Hurricane”. Before that track there was some back and forth with BJ and the crowd about the meaning of the song. “Hurricane” is actually about a girl from Valdosta, GA and BJ was trying to describe the relationship as somewhere between dating and relations but someone in the crowd interjected by calling it “f*cking”. This made BJ crack up on stage and say something along the lines of “that is exactly the word I was trying to dance around saying in public”. This started a hilarious back and forth banter that broke up the more serious nature of the songs on the rock show.
Rhett Huffman on the keys
This set heavily featured tracks from the Burn. Flicker. Die. album which included another highlight of the night with a rocking version of local favorite with “Jacksonville”. It ended with a psychedelic crescendo that takes the recorded version to the next level. Another track from that album was the great “Lonely Ain’t Easy” about a lover who takes everything including a prized vinyl record collection. The country side of the band really stands out on this live version which features Adam Kurtz on the pedal steel.
BJ Barham puts everything into his songs
Another highlight of the night was the early hit “I Hope He Breaks Your Heart”. This track was a rocking ballad with a sing-along chorus that had the crowd going. BJ Barham sings this song with the same passion towards the subject that he recorded it with almost ten years ago. It was the perfect lead in to the final track of the main set “Burn.flicker.die”. It was another rocker that highlights the songwriting of BJ Barham while leaving the crowd on a high note. That prepared the small but rowdy crowd to erupt into a frenzy for an encore which lead to a finale of “Katherine Belle” that ended the night with an early track from the Dances For The Lonely album.
American Aquarium closes out the night with an encore
BJ Barham has finally created a band that is firing on all cylinders. They can straddle the line between rock and roll and country as needed and both genres sound perfectly executed from this band. The new lineup features Shane Boeker on lead guitar, Adam Kurtz on pedal steel, Rhett Huffman on the keyboard, Ben Hussey on bass and Joey Bybee on drums. It should be noted that Joey is out of the band for the rest of the year for personal reasons, so Matt Alger filled in on drums. I cannot stress this enough, American Aquarium are a must see band. If you love country, rock and roll, heartland rock, Americana or even just good music, go see this band while you can. I love that they are still playing smaller markets such as Valdosta, GA because I feel like they will be moving on to bigger venues very soon. As a final note, they are making their national TV debut tonight / early tomorrow morning (09/11/2018) on NBC’s Last Call With Carson Daly at 01:30 AM. After that, they are still on tour for the rest of the month and I will post those dates at the end of this article. Go see this band, you won’t regret it.
September 10th Chattanooga, TN
September 11th Jackson, MS
Sept 12th – 14th Nashville, TN
September 15th Macon, GA
September 21st Jacksonville, FL
September 22nd Wilmington, NC
September 23rd Charlotte, NC