In keeping with the local-oriented theme of Hopscotch’s main stage on its final night, Raleigh fixtures American Aquarium — who have played every year of the festival — took to their biggest stage here yet and proved why they belonged there. Well-known to followers of the rootsy Americana they’re most known for (the band is named for the line in Wilco’s “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”), this band has been slogging it out on tour, especially in the South, for nearly a decade. Their volatile frontman BJ Barham’s songs reflect that grizzled spirit — his first number was about the casualties of rock n’ roll, after all. By some measures, American Aquarium shouldn’t have even been here at all — the band has claimed they were ready to hang it up until their previous record, Burn.Flicker.Die took them to the next level and rescued them from obscurity’s precipice.
So, this year, they released Wolves, which is filled with songs that reflect Barham’s ambivalence about his life choices. Just look at some titles from this set: “Southern Sadness,” “Family Problems,” “The Losing Side of Twenty-Five,” and “Man I’m Supposed To Be” (it’s about how he isn’t that). Plenty of other bands traffic in the whiskey-swilling-Southern-white-guy-blues thing, but American Aquarium, not unlike fellow traveler Patterson Hood, actually sound like they mean it. “Man I’m Supposed To Be” may wear its heart on its sleeve, but it also makes a point that many a married man can identify with. The bottle suffuses this band’s work, and you can’t help but nod at how Barham has started to come to terms with his self-set traps. There’s no need to get clinical to figure out how the lifestyle, and the ways that you both generate and come to terms with the emotions you share with your audience, almost demands that you not stop. Hopscotch founder and former organizer Grayson Haver Currin called Wolves a breakthrough record for the band, and he was absolutely right. So here they are, after playing day shows and bigger and bigger night stages, finally on the festival’s biggest platform. Let’s hope they keep it up, and make their next chapter a bright one.
I recorded this set with a soundboard feed together with Audio Technica 4051 microphones. The board feed kicks in about two minutes into the first song. The sound quality is excellent. Enjoy!
Stream the complete set:
Hopscotch Music Festival
Raleigh, NC USA
Exclusive download hosted at nyctaper.com
Recorded and produced by acidjack
Soundboard + Audio Technica 4051 (FOB, PAS)>Edirol R-44>2x24bit/48kHz WAV>Adobe Audition CS 5.5 (align, mix down)>Izotope Ozone 5 (EQ, expansion, effects)>Audacity 2.0.3 (track, amplify, balance, downsample, dither)>FLAC ( level 8 )
Tracks [Total Time 43:55]
02 St. Marys
04 Southern Sadness
07 The Losing Side of 25
08 Spanish Pipedream (Blow Up Your TV) [John Prine]
10 Man I’m Supposed To Be
11 Family Problems
If you enjoyed this recording, PLEASE SUPPORT American Aquarium, visit their website, and buy Wolves there.