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Monday, April 21, 2014

Live: American Aquarium teases new material at Slim's anniversary

Posted by on Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 3:18 PM

American Aquarium, Gross Ghost, Paint Fumes, Left Outlet
Slim's, Raleigh
Friday, April 18, 2014

I arrived on Wilmington Street just in time to hear the last howls of Paint Fumes at Slim’s  Though I was greeted by a sold-out sign taped to the front door of Slim’s, the narrow music hallway that celebrated its 15th anniversary throughout last week, the room was still filling in as owner Van Alston introduced Left Outlet—the “house band,” he called them—for their final show.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen the often over-the-top Raleigh outfit, but their rowdy set of shout-along anthems proved Left Outlet will be missed, no matter how underappreciated they were. With only dashes of their once-prominent psych and glam theatrics, they stuck largely to tunes that compelled fists—and discounted domestic cans—into the air. Frontman Tim Lemuel became shirtless in quick fashion, setting up his mic at the edge of the stage to find an impromptu set of background vocalists.

As American Aquarium took the stage, it was clear they’d have no trouble finding their own choir. Much of the crowd, unsurprisingly, was there for the chance to see the local alt-country fixture in its old—and now outgrown—stomping grounds. The Backsliders frontman Chip Robinson, who joined in on a cover of “Abe Lincoln,” seemed to need more help remembering his own lyrics than most anyone did for the whiskey-soaked poetry of singer BJ Barham. Adding muscle to rockers and texture to ballads, new guitarist Colin Dimeo (an addition, not a replacement) played just his second show with the band. He grew more comfortable as the roughly hour-long set drew on and dipped into the back catalog. Live standbys like “Katherine Belle” and “I Hope He Breaks Your Heart” were surely planned, while others were more off-the-cuff; before “Tennessee,” Barham thanked a fan that ponied up $100 to hear the Dances for the Lonely tune. “You might think we’re a jukebox,” he said, “but we’re a really fucking expensive jukebox.”

Barham and company offered up a pair of new songs, too—“Man I’m Supposed to Be” and “Wolves.” The latter started a spontaneous “WOLF-PACK” chant after Barham mentioned that Julius Hodge was the song’s inspiration. It’ll serve as the title track for American Aquarium’s forthcoming record, which they’ll begin tracking at Asheville’s Echo Mountain Studios in June with Megafaun’s Brad Cook at the helm. After their set, Barham suggested that it’d cross into Dr. Dog and Dawes territory.

Closing the night, Gross Ghost fought through persistent guitar troubles to deliver its garage gems to a thin but enthusiastic crowd. Like American Aquarium, Gross Ghost’s line-up sported a relatively new member in bassist Ellis Anderson. They’ll soon be recording new material as well, though it’ll be a seven-inch rather than a full-length. If Saturday night’s set, which stretched back to the foursome’s earliest material, was any indication, expect nervy, insistent spurts bursting with hooks.

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