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American Aquarium at Bourgie Nights 9/22/18
Bourgie Night
Wilmington, NC
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American Aquarium at Bourgie Nights 9/22/18
Doors 8pm. Show 9pm. $20 ADV $25 DOS.

American Aquarium

In the lush tobacco fields of North Carolina where BJ Barham was raised, people work hard. Families stay nearby, toiling and growing together. BJ loves those farms and his tiny Reidsville hometown, but he had to run off and start American Aquarium, a band now beloved by thousands.

BJ couldnt stay. But he couldnt really leave, either: hes still singing about the lessons, stories, and lives that define rural Americaand him.

I moved to the big city to go to college and fell in love with music, BJ says. But half the songs on our record are about small townslittle pieces of my childhood. Ive had moments where it turns out a piece of broken English my father repeated twice a week is the most accurate way to say something. So I put it in a song.

American Aquariums seventh studio album Things Change offers the bands finest collection of folk-infused Southern rock-and-roll to date. Stacked with BJs signature storytellingalways deeply personal but also instantly relatablethe record questions and curses current events, shares one mans intimate evolution, and leaves listeners with a priceless gift: hope.

In my early 20s, I was not as hopeful, BJ says. Now, as Im getting ready to become a father, I think I have to be hopefulespecially with the situation our country is in now. For her sake, I have to be positive. He pauses. Her is his daughter, due in the spring of 2018. BJ adds, Being self-aware has always been a blessing and a curse. But thats whats always made my songwriting relatable to people. I dont hold back. Im almost too honest.

BJs candor has fueled American Aquariums runaway appeal, visible most clearly in consistently sold-out shows across the country and throughout Europe  between 200 and 250 dates a year.  Much has changed for the band and BJ since their acclaimed last effort, Wolves. In 2017, every American Aquarium member save BJ quit the group. American Aquarium has featured about 30 players since BJ founded the outfit in 2006, and while each member has left indelible marks, the band has always been anchored by the literary songs and sometimes roaring, sometimes whispering, drawl of BJ Barham. BJs personal life also underwent seismic shifts: He got sober. He got married. Soon, hell be a dad.

Featuring a new band lineup that includes Shane Boeker on lead guitar, drummer Joey Bybee, bassist Ben Hussey, and Adam Kurtz on pedal steel and electric guitar, as well as a reinvigorated frontman in BJ, Things Change is American Aquariums first release on a label after selling thousands of records on their own. As an artist, your goal is for the newest thing you do to be better than the last. Youre slowly whittling away the bullshit to try and get to the truth, BJ says. With this album, I learned how to cut some of that fat so that its just truth. Its our best record.

Recorded at 3CG Records in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Things Change was produced by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter John Fulbright and features cameos from Americana standouts including John Moreland and Jamie Lin Wilson. Brazen album opener The World is on Fire is a richly layered rock-and-roll anthem that documents BJ and his wifes stunned reaction to the last presidential election. Emotional and conversational, the song taps into widespread feelings of confusion and fear: She said, What are we going to do? Whats this world coming to? / For the first time in my whole life, I stood there speechless. But what begins as despair builds into defiant faith, as BJ growls a call to action to cap off one of his favorite songs hes ever written. Im complaining about the state of things, and then the third verse almost serves as a challenge to myself: hey, youre in charge of another human being. You can create change, he says.

Driving rock-and-roller Crooked + Straight explores the small-town consequences of questioning religion, and the tightness of family in the face of one members rejection. His fathers advice anchors the song. I come from a blue-collar family. Im the only one who didnt go into farming. I learned if you want something, you have to go out and take it. You cant expect anything from anybody, BJ says. You can only go out there and work harder. My dad always said you can outwork anybody else. Love for hard work and the people who carry it out appears repeatedly throughout Things Change. Guitar-heavy Tough Folks is a snarling ode to those with dirt under their fingernails, while bass- and pedal-steel-infused Work Conquers All spins a tale in praise and pursuit of Oklahomas state motto.

The albums love songs are the kind of achingly beautiful that only comes with maturity and a willingness to expose ones own flaws. Haunting Shadows of You recalls a lovers flight as the protagonist longs for what he let get away. Gorgeous Till the Final Curtain Falls celebrates loyalty and pledges endless devotion. The moving title track takes an often doleful topicpeoples tendency to changeand turns it on its head, tracing BJs personal growth and recognizing his now-wifes steadfast love.

BJs other two favorite tracks are album standouts. Moving When We Were Younger Men addresses the break-up of American Aquarium head on. As BJ professes love for his former bandmates over stripped down acoustic guitar, his voice is honeyed and deep. Its an open letter to five guys who I spent eight years of my life with seeing the entire world, BJ says. I think anyone who has ever had to walk away from a friendship or has had somebody walk away from them will relate to the song. Stunner One Day at a Time is self-perceptive and vulnerable, detailing BJs battles with himself. Even within his career full of well-written gems, the song is a towering accomplishment.

At the end of the day, if youre not writing songs to affect other peoples lives, youre in it for the wrong reasons, BJ says, reflecting on the new album, where hes been, and where American Aquarium is headed. Money may come and go. You may never get fame. But if you sit down and write songs to affect people, you can do it your whole life and be happy.


Bourgie Night (View)
127 Princess Street
Wilmington, NC 28401
United States


Music > Americana

Minimum Age: 21
Kid Friendly: No
Dog Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!


Owner: Bourgie Nights
On BPT Since: Oct 23, 2014
William Mellon


Name Withheld
Sep 22, 2018 7:27 PM
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Sep 22, 2018 7:22 PM
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Sep 22, 2018 4:11 PM
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Sep 22, 2018 4:11 PM
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Sep 22, 2018 3:04 PM

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