Let’s go back to February 20, 2016: I was headed to The Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri, ready to check out a new band I hadn’t seen before. The band was Papadosio and now they are one of my favorite jam bands who I have seen a handful of times since. Who really surprised me that night, however, was Aqueous, a band I had never heard of but would soon never forget. The high point of their set, or at least what I remembered the most, was their medley of groovy ‘Star Wars’ themes. Man, was it cool to see a jam band do something like that, especially for someone who had only seen a number of jam bands at this point.
Fast forward to February 16, 2017: With a lot more jam genre shows under my belt, including some pieces of a Aqueous sets at Summer Camp last May, I was ready to see Aqueous play a full set in my hometown. I really believe that you do not know an artist until you see them play a headlining set–you have to see them when they know they’re they are ending the night out. Rose Music Hall is one of my favorite venues. The intimacy and small size allows you the ability to get nice and close to the stage and even talk with the bands sometimes. You could gather that my excitement to see these guys headline here was at an all time high.
The night kicks off with Mighty Pines, a great band from St Louis, who recently played a 90’s tribute set a couple weeks ago at the same venue. They played a great set but the anticipation for Aqueous was thick and I knew they would blow the roof off of such a small venue. As they came on, what really impressed me was that they brought their own lighting setup. Rose often doesn’t bring groups with stage lighting- there simply isn’t enough room on stage. The extra effort taken for production is always appreciated though, even just a couple extra steps goes a long way for the audience and overall experience of the show.
Beyond just fancy lighting arrangement, I was really impressed with the band’s playing. They toyed with a lot of different genres, getting jazzy and heavy and, more than I remembered, REALLY funky! Evan McPhaden on the bass was throwing down funky lines all night, keeping the rhythm tight for the other guys on stage. Their guitarist, Mike Gantzner, really wowed me as well with his crisp and clean guitar work. As lead guitarist he was driving the jams, giving the band nudges on what direction to take and at the same time melting the faces off everyone attending, yours truly included.
I had a great time watching Instrumentalist Dave Loss. Dave was working with the keyboards, as well as pulling out a guitar to play some rhythm guitar textures under Mike’s shredding. Along with the other three, we had Rob Houk tying it all together with his outstanding drum work. Drummers do not get enough attention, so I’m glad they placed him a little further up on the stage and had him throw down a drum solo at the end. During the encore, Aqueous teased a riff, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Before I could nail the familiar tune, they switched off and ended the show with a super groovy finale of their hit ‘Triangle’. After the show I had to ask them what it was, and of course it was Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Know Your Enemy’. A fantastic way to end the night! Teasing a riff is great way to throw in something recognizable without fully covering the song and makes for an excited crowd.
Aqueous hails from Buffalo, NY, starting their touring through the Northeast. I talked with the band after the show and I learned that these guys have been playing together for about a decade, since high school. You can feel their chemistry on stage, you can tell they have been playing together for quite a while and can tell which direction the jam will be going. When a jam band has four solid members, it leaves more room for each member to shine their creativity and improvisational skills as individuals as well has a band unit. It is always really neat to see such old buddies make their dreams come true, especially when they are so good at doing it!
I’m really excited to see the future for Aqueous, as they make their way to the top of festival lineups and start wowing audiences across the country. All I can say is if Aqueous comes anywhere near where you call home, you will not regret making the trip out for the night. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see where the band travels next and wish them all the success in the world.