Posted on May 17 2012 11:04 PM
Thanks for posting the cool videos of us, Jeremy! Alas, I don't have a smartphone with a camera, so I didn't get to take any videos of you - bummer! I should say that those amps sounded pretty amazing when YOU played through them, too!
It's been a crazy ten days for me since returning from NC. Things are finally calming down now, so I'll finally write about Aqualads at the Fayetteville show. As I mentioned before, the audience was sparse and mostly dead, so we were basically playing for each other, which I have to say was pretty amazing, and it led to me becoming a mega Aqualads fan that night! Their set just blew me away. I saw them play the night before at the Instro Summit, and enjoyed the hell out of it. But being able to take in the band from right in front, without anybody getting in my line of sight, and having them sound SO INCREDIBLE, well, for a surf music fan, I can honestly say it doesn't get any better than that. I was in heaven! I suppose we've all fantastised about one of our favorite bands giving a private performance - I basically had that experience. And it was everything I could have imagined!
In honor of Cinco de Mayo, they started off with Border Town by Eddie & the Showmen, followed by, ah damn, I thought I'd remember! (My memory ain't what it used to be!) Malaguena? Whatever it was, it was another Mexican-themed classic. From there they proceeded to play almost their entire 2011 album Treasures, plus a big chunk of their 2004 album Surf! Surf! Surf! (including the amazing It Came from the Sea, Trantula, and Rodeo Gals), and Swimming with the Sharks from their second album, Revenge (I didn't recognize any other songs from their first two albums). They also played a ton of cool covers. One that really blew me away was Storm Warning by the Australian '60s surf band the Nocturnes. It's an obscure track that was compiled on the great Board Boogie comp some years ago. Very Atlantics influenced, and they just they tore it up! They were also kind enough to dedicate ther song Curse to me - it's an uber-cool combination of the Wailers "High Wall" and "Fifth Dimension" from the Surf Creature comp (credited to an unknown band). Sounded so eeee-veeeel! Yes!
This band IS WAY underappreciated among surf music fans. I don't think people realize how incredible they really are. They've got the songs, they've got the sound, and they've got the chops - damn, to they have the chops! Having started in 1997, and having basically been playing since then, they really know what they're doing. They've got it down to a science! Jeremy and Greg swich off on lead, often times within the same song. Jeremy's got the huge Jazzmaster tone, usually playing on the bridge pickup, while Greg's got the classic in-between Strat tone, sounding more than a bit in the Jim Messina vein - that raspy, heavy reverb sound. And boy, they can both play. Jeremy seems more studied and a bit more cerebral but extremely melodic in his playing, while Greg's style seems like pure instinct, almost no thought (and he double-picks like an animal - I don't think I've ever seen anyone double-pick quite as fast!). Yet they both played with a great deal of feeling and JOY - joy was just radiating from them! You can tell they LOVE THIS MUSIC! Jimmy on bass was just perfect, played exactly the right thing at the right time, pure taste and deep melodic sensibility. Darrell on drums was a revelation - a trad drummer worthy of the modern greats, people like Ted Pilgrim, the Fathoms' drummer, etc. He could play really tasty or REALLY fast, with endless snare rolls (Dane at one point told me that his wrists hurt just watching Darrell play!).
The overall impression is of a truly world-class band, one that is loaded with talent, both in terms of musicianship AND songwriting and that deeply loves what they do. They were having fun on stage, which was really nice to observe. At the end of Swimming with the Sharks, Greg fluffed the final run, shouted "Doggone it!", pulled a funny face and started laughing. But he made up for it with a really cool addition to the end of Vientos del Sur, a little tag that's not in the studio version, and that seemed to catch his bandmates by pleasant surprise. It was just little moments like that, where you could closely see the reactions and interactions of the band members, that made this a very special show.
It occurred to me that in some ways Aqualads are a sort of modern-day Fathoms. They approach their music with that same trad spirit, but have the ability to write the most amazing songs that really aren't all that traditional when you truly think about it, that go to places that '60s surf didn't really. And yet, it sounds as authentic as it possibly can be. A hell of a trick!
So, count me in as a huge Aqualads for life as a result of this show! Can you believe that in these 15 years of playing they've only played ONE out-of-state show? It was the Clarksville, GA (outside of Atlanta) surf fest a few years ago. Is it any wonder that so few people are aware of what an amazing band they really are??? This has got to change, we've got to get these guys OUT OF NORTH CAROLINA! A slot on next year's SG101 convention would be a great beginning - though I sure hope it happens even earlier than that!
So, in closing, all I can say is - AQUALADS FREAKIN' RULE!!!!! This was a night I'll remember for a long time.
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Last edited: May 17, 2012 23:41:18