American Aquarium come out of Raleigh, North Carolina with an indie-rock sound that has enough country swagger to it to keep this particular blogger engaged. Their sophomore album, The Bible & The Bottle has been out for so long there really isn’t anything I could say about it that hasn’t already been said in other places where real professionals write, but I will say it’s pretty freakin’ awesome and you should check it out.

American Aquarium features a sound that’s been described as Whiskeytown meets Lucero (I’d add a touch of Roger Hoover when he was a Whiskeyhound instead of a Magpie) and on The Bible & The Bottle they embrace that comparison, going so far as to bring Whiskeytown’s producer Greg Elkins into produce it, getting Whiskeytown’s drummer Skillet Gilmore to do the artwork and even featuring Caitlin Cary on backing vocals on some of the tracks.

We’re kind of in a weird position with American Aquarium. I just found out about them a couple of months ago, and as a result we’re a year late talking about The Bible & The Bottle but we’re writing about them while they’re on the edge of releasing a new album, Dances for the Lonely, come April 25. The Whiskeytown connections continue to run deep on the new album, which finds Caitlin Cary returning for backup vocals detail while Chris Stamey (Whiskeytown, Ben Folds Five, The Rosebuds) takes the producer role. Hopefully the band doesn’t try to reinvent themselves on Dances for the Lonely and they continue to build on the sound they’ve already established.

American Aquarium – California
American Aquarium – Lover Too Late
American Aquarium – Monsters (Is it just me or does this song remind anyone else of the Nine Inch Nails track, Hurt?)

Johnny Cash – Hurt
Nine Inch Nails – Hurt

American Aquarium on myspace, Buy The Bible & The Bottle


In the interest of full disclosure, I am an utter and complete Ben Folds fangirl, so this is not objective reporting.  I love pretty much everything he’s done, both solo and with The Ben Folds Five.  I was so excited for this show I could hardly stand having to go to work on Friday instead of getting in line outside the venue so I could be at the front of the crowd for the general admission show.

Well, we all know what happens with the best laid plans of mice and fangirls…we not only didn’t get there early, we completely missed the opening band.  I usually try to catch the openers for my faves since I like hearing the music that they believe works well with their own sound, so I was pretty bummed.  Then I became even more bummed as I heard over and over from people I spoke to that Jukebox’s set was awesome.  And then I checked out their myspace page and it became clear that I missed something good.  Hopefully they come back around on their own so I can redeem myself by catching them next time.  I’m definitely planning to at least get a hold of their cd, Let Live and Let Ghosts, so I can hear more.

By the time we got in and worked our way down to the floor, the crowd was 10 people thick from the stage before you hit the passive aggressive layer.  You know, the ‘accidental’ elbow and the ‘omg, so sorry’ beer spill, when you’re just trying to move into an open area in the crowd?  I try hard to avoid that layer because I don’t have much passive in me and I was in way too good a mood to fight, so we chilled on the perimeter and waited patiently.  Ben hit the stage at 9, a half an hour early according to LiveNations’s site, and after a brief howdy to the crowd he sat at the piano and got to work.  While I was expecting him to focus mainly on Way to Normal, I was ecstatic that he went all over his back catalogue during the two hour concert, even playing stuff from The Five.  He even played a couple “fake” tracks from the self-leaked fake version of the current album.

The absolute hands-down pinnacle of my night was getting to be a part of “Not The Same”.  I’ve heard so many live versions of this song, and finally I was one of the people being led by Ben in 3-part harmony.  I love the vibe of being at a concert where everyone knows the words and is so into the moment.  Well, by this time we had moved up to the balcony and from my perch I could hear the whole room swell with sound as we started, stopped and started again, with Ben conducting the crowd from the front of the stage.  He wrapped up the night with “Army”, which also has parts for crowd participation, and thank goodness he saved it for the last song because I was about to pass out from dehydration from all the singing and dancing…and also from being too enraptured to go back to the bar (yes, he’s THAT good).  Oh, and while we didn’t get a personalized version of “Rock This Bitch”, we did get an impromptu song about his day in Tampa, including going “to a diner that wasn’t a diner named something-Mouth” and then going to have sushi, even though he didn’t like sushi so he just had a California roll.  Awesomness.

This is the first show I’ve seen at the newly renovated Ritz theater (formerly The Masquerade, which was formerly The Ritz) and I was totally impressed.  The main room is definitely better suited for concerts IMO, with a larger main floor and a nice bar set into the wall on the right (where the lovely Brittany took great care of us), while the two side rooms offer a nice place for bands to set up merch and for smokers to go have a quick cig break, since apparently the main room is smoke free.  I’m already looking forward to seeing my next show there, whatever it may be.

Check out Jukebox the Ghost on myspace.  You can also hear what I’m talking about with “Not The Same”, on an only slightly grander scale, below.

Ben Folds Live With The Western Australia Symphony Orchestra- Not the Same

See more pix from the show here.