Aqueous Fits All-Improv Set Into Marathon Rochester Show: Exclusive Video Premiere


Aqueous played a three-set show before a capacity crowd at Anthology in Rochester on March 15. The nearly four-hour performance included the Buffalo-based quartet’s first-ever all-improv set. JamBase is pleased to premiere official video of the entire concert as this week’s Full Show Friday selection.

Local fans, who were used to having plenty of opportunities to see the band, had been waiting patiently to see Aqueous in 2019 after the group started the year with their debut West Coast tour. AQ followers sold out a room nearly three times the size of the Rochester venue the four-piece played just 11 months prior.

Guitarist Mike Gantzer, multi-instrumentalist Dave Loss, bassist Evan McPhaden and drummer Rob Houk opened with a 75-minute set heavy on classic material. Aqueous came out of the gates with the hard-hitting “The Median” and then weaved Weezer’s “Undone (The Sweater Song)” within their own “Kitty Chaser (Explosions).” The Weezer cover had been shelved since September 11, 2016 – a span of 244 shows. Gantzer noted, “It’s good to be at our second home” to Rochester fans before the group launched into a seamless run that included “Origami,” “Good Enough” and “Complex Pt. 1.” With the exploratory “Warren In The Window” ending the frame, “Good Enough” from 2018’s Color Wheel stood as the only song in the set debuted after 2013.

The 65-minute all-improv set began simply enough with a riff from Gantzer. Houk provided a funky beat and Aqueous was on their way. AQ explored more than a dozen themes over the course of the set ranging from a dark prog progression to an intense metal foray to a smooth and jazzy jam space to Red Hot Chili Peppers-esque funk to blissful rock to an upbeat ska section to a grungy climax in which Mike lovingly gave the crowd the finger and a bit of the blues. Hundreds of shows together paid massive dividends for the band as they were able to keep the set moving and interesting throughout without saying a word to each other. The last 10 minutes of the set featured one peak after another to the delight of the crowd.

Mike Gantzer shared the following with JamBase about the experience:

”The AQ improv set was one of my favorite experiences playing music, maybe ever! We kind of just said ‘fuck it’ and decided not to discuss anything about it ahead of time in favor of creating something totally real and organic for (and with) the audience.

”With this being our first time ever doing this, we literally had no expectations, and it was re-affirming that there really is joy in the unknown, and the energy in the room was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before! There were so many themes, moods, feelings and moments expressed between the band and audience throughout the straight 65 minutes of improvised music that just had all four of us cheesin’ super hard up there! It felt like new ground to us.”

When Aqueous returned to the stage they still had 80 minutes of music left for the audience. The four-piece picked up where they left off in the first set with a focus on older and well-known songs. A pairing of “20/20” and “Aldehyde” was followed by “Underlyer” giving way to “Marty.” While there was plenty of jamming in the third set, there was also plenty of singing to break up the intensity. The “Underlyer” into “Marty” sequence was perhaps the closest Aqueous would come to a breather and showed off the band’s spot-on harmonies. By utilizing jam vehicle “All In” as a portal to Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell” and back again to end the set, the band had filled the closing stanza with material debuted prior to 2015. AQ would have been excused for dipping out with a quick encore, but instead said farewell with a 20-minute version of one of their oldest originals, “Triangle.”

Here’s video of a special night in Aqueous history filmed and prepped by MKDevo:


Set One: The Median, Kitty Chaser (Explosions) > Undone (The Sweater Song)1 > Kitty Chaser (Explosions), Origami > Good Enough > Complex Pt. I, Warren in the Window

Set Two: Improvisation2

Set Three: 20/20 > Aldehyde, Underlyer > Marty, All In > Run Like Hell > All In

Encore: Triangle3

  • 1 BUSTOUT: LTP 9/11/16 (244 shows)
  • 2 Entire set was pure improvisation. 62 minutes.
  • 3 Started with a “jazz improvisation”

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