by: Thomas D. Mooney
This past Friday, two of the nation’s best live bands, Dallas’ The O’s and Raleigh, N.C.’s American Aquarium, performed at The Blue Light. Both bands were coming down from the mountain and heading East after strong performances at this year’s MusicFest in Steamboat Springs, Colo.
We jotted down some notes, took some photographs, drank some beers, and listened to incredible music. Read, view, and enjoy below. For our last interview with BJ Barham of American Aquarium, click here. For our last interview with Taylor Young and John Pedigo of The O’s, click here.
- The O’s covered the Townes Van Zandt classic “Waiting ‘Round to Die.” It wasn’t your standard rendition either. In the classic O’s fashion, it was an acoustic guitar infused with banjo with dual vocals. It wasn’t nearly as slow-paced as the original, but Pedigo and Young were still able to harness that sense of sadness that’s essential to the song.
- The O’s formula–guitar, banjo, some kick drum, some lowebro pedal action, dual harmonies–some would think that could get a little stale and/or limited after a while, but it never does. Anytime I’ve ever seen them, they’re able to keep it raw, energetic, and refreshing time and time again. This time was no exception.
- The audience was already at the front of the stage by the time The O’s began playing. As many know, this isn’t a typical crowd characteristic for Lubbock as they typically treat the middle of the floor as if it’s molten lava for the first few songs of a set. Now there was obviously some early jockeying for prime position to see American Aquarium later on, but for the most part, they were all standing up there for The O’s–regardless of who was playing the stage later in the night.
- Taylor Young was sporting a No Dry County hat–Lubbock’s own (I know, it’s not that important, but I noticed it).
- This was the best American Aquarium show I’ve ever seen. I say that after each one of them, but this one, it was a near-perfect performance. If it had been Mortal Kombat, it’d have been a flawless victory.
- I always enjoy knowing that Lubbock was the first Texas town that AA played, but those roots really have taken off. You see it the fact that nearly every song (except for some deep cuts from the upcoming Wolves) can be a sing-a-long or at least specific lyrics are shouted. It’s not the most important thing in the world, but it certainly creates an energetic atmosphere that’s unescapable.
- There was a pretty long line of people waiting even as AA was playing. Blue Light isn’t one of these colossal 1000 capacity dancehall rooms scattered across Texas. It’s an intimate, small setting. You better get there early. In saying that, it’s pretty cool seeing that people would rather wait for a chance of seeing AA than go down the street for some generic country act.
- It was bassist Bill Corbin’s birthday. They got a cake from United. It was chocolate.
- I’ve seen them with their newest member, guitarist Colin Dimeo, playing a few times. But I can’t saying it enough, that addition has done so many things for AA. It’s great to see Dimeo and fellow guitarist Ryan Johnson interact and play off each other. It’s like seeing a great backcourt in basketball–let’s say former Detroit Pistons Isaiah Thomas and Joe Dumars. They’re able to say so much to each other with just eye contact and facial expression. Sonically, it just adds so much to the equation.
- Speaking of Dimeo, I was speaking with him after the show and he couldn’t say enough things about The Blue Light atmosphere. He said it reminded him of the small,close quarters bars he was used to playing in his native New Jersey and was mildly surprised to find a place like this in Texas–which, by all means, is known for just being incredibly gigantic.
- AA blazed through a bunch of material from the forthcoming Wolves, their sixth (SIXTH!!!) studio album, in addition to the pillars of any AA set list. It’s been noted in many a publication by this point, Wolves is a monster of an album due out officially Feb 3. Course, it’s available for purchase at any of their live shows as well.
- It’s been kind of their calling card for the last few years–that AA is the hardest working band traveling around the country. They play more live shows than just about any other band. Which, that’s great and all, but let’s face it, that wouldn’t be such a great thing if they mailed it in four nights a week. That’d really just be a bunch of wasted shows. This probably relates to my other point about them performing better each time I see them. It’s that they don’t mail in anything. I think it’s partly because they’re enjoying the entire thing–the show, the fans, the road, each other, etc–more than ever. So hardest working band in America? Yes. But also the most gracious and appreciative band going.
- American Aquarium (and The O’s for that matter) are so fan-centric. Barham and company want to thank every fan face to face. Let’s take a photo, shake hands, etc after the show. It kind of reminds me of stories I’ve heard about Tom Cruise thanking literally every person in the audience at every talk show he’s on (Don’t take that as a backhanded compliment AA.)