Aqueous Lights Up Ann Arbor: Review & Photos

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Words & Images by: Kelley Lauginiger

Aqueous :: 11.28.18 :: Blind Pig :: Ann Arbor, MI

By the size of the crowd at the packed Blind Pig in Ann Arbor last night, you’d never know it was a snowy Wednesday after Thanksgiving. Grooverockers Aqueous kicked off the Midwest leg of their Color Wheel tour to a full room, with support from Chicago’s EGi.

An improvisational four-piece with drums, bass and two guitarists, EGi was a perfect fit to get everyone dancing and moving enough to take off their pea coats and really get down. The Midwest can be a true thermometer for crowd engagement during winter shows. If people’s coats are off, and they’re dancing so much they’re flushed, it’s a pretty good indication they’re feeling it. Last night by the time EGi finished up, there were coats just strewn abound, hanging off stools and formed into piles around the edges of the dance floor.

Kicking off around 10:30, Aqueous took the stage as “Chariots Of Fire” played over the PA. Guitarist Mike Gantzer said this only happens sometimes, for the record. Lighting the match with “Median,” the guys settled in on a jam clocking in somewhere over 20 minutes. They did not mess around.

A transition into “Origami” was seamless. One of their most immediately recognizable and pungent intros, this track is definitive Aqueous. In a recent Facebook Live Q & A, bassist Evan McPhaden explained the song’s lyrical comparison of a girl to a Japanese knotweed: an invasive species in their hometown of Buffalo. “It’s like a girl who is just … always around. You’re not sure why, but she’s there,” he said. Really makes you think.

Aqueous does a tremendous job of reaching all types of fans. You can count on them mixing old songs, new songs, covers and teases from all genres and eras of their existence. Ironically for their Color Wheel tour, this show didn’t feature any songs from the recently released album. Following a light and ethereal cover of Flaming Lips’ “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1” came “All In,” one of the concert’s highlights. Opening with a ripping fill from drummer Rob Houk, the marked dissonance of this song kind of explains Aqueous to me in a nutshell. From dark to light, and back again, they take you on a sensory ride through every type of sound in one song. Composed of different segments, “All In” feels oftentimes like four different songs smashed into one. Maybe that’s the point, given the title. This Ann Arbor version shredded and staccato-danced itself through a huge jam that had the whole place headbanging and dancing.

It should be noted that while there were no Color Wheel songs played live last night, Aqueous Lighting Director Ryan Bress lit up the place with a gorgeous new tool he made himself with friends that is quite literally a color wheel. It looked amazing on stage and added a whole new level of awesome to the already-stellar Aqueous lights.

Dropping a “Next Episode” tease by Dr. Dre during “Underlyer” garnered a bunch of shout-outs and fired up the crowd for the huge “Aldehyde” sandwich that followed. Tucked off in the corner of the stage, keys player and guitarist Dave Loss shined in this segment with a huge sound despite being tucked behind all gear. The rare “Mice” then got some big Aqueous fans pumped to finally catch one of their white whales.

“Night one back out was excellent,” Gantzer said. “We had a lot of energy from our few days off for the holiday, and the crowd was really ready to dance and throw down too. The band was loose and having fun. We loved it!” Closing with “Numbers and Facts,” they played a full two hours straight before thanking everyone and heading home. A high energy night of fire jams was had by all. When asked about the difference between their recent Southern run and the Midwest, Gantzer said, “I think every region of the country has its own vibe and there seems to be different musical themes that resonate more in different spots. Having not spent much time in the South until recently, our immediate assessment is that they rage, and I think some of our more dance-oriented tunes seem to really go over. The Midwest seems to be down to get just a little heavier but are also way down for a dance party. The thing I love about this scene is that no matter where we are, fans in this genre are super nice and supportive, and that’s amazing.”

Setlist

Set One: The Median > Origami, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1 > All In, Underlyer*, Aldehyde > Mice > Aldehyde

Encore: Numbers and Facts

* – Next Episode (Dr. Dre) tease

Tour Dates for
Aqueous

  • Dec
    30
    2018
  • Dec
    31
    2018
  • Feb
    7
    2019
  • Feb
    8
    2019
  • Feb
    9
    2019
  • Feb
    13
    2019
  • Feb
    14
    2019
  • Feb
    15
    2019
  • Feb
    16
    2019
  • Feb
    17
    2019
  • Feb
    20
    2019
  • Feb
    21
    2019
  • Feb
    22
    2019
  • Feb
    23
    2019
  • Feb
    26
    2019
  • Feb
    27
    2019
  • Feb
    28
    2019
  • Mar
    1
    2019
  • Mar
    6
    2019
  • Mar
    7
    2019
  • Mar
    8
    2019
  • Mar
    9
    2019
    • Route 7
    • Masontown, WV 26542
    • United States
    May
    16
    2019
    • 4117 Mulberry Mountain Loop
    • Ozark, AR 72949
    • United States
    May
    31
    2019
    • 1000 Montage Mountain Rd
    • Scranton, PA 18507
    • United States
    Jul
    25
    2019