American Aquarium - Standing Room Only

  • Dates: September 14, 2024
  • Times: Doors open at 7pm; Show starts at 8pm
  • Admission: GA Standing $27; VIP Standing $47; VIP Tables (up to 4 people) $248
  • Harvester Performance Center
    450 Franklin Street
    Rocky Mount, VA 24151
  • Phone: 540-484-8277
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American Aquarium – The Fear of Standing Still
For nearly two decades, American Aquarium have pushed toward that rare form of rock-and-roll that’s revelatory in every sense. “For us the sweet spot is when you’ve got a rock band that makes you scream along to every word, and it’s not until you’re coming down at three a.m. that you realize those words are saying something real about your life,” says frontman BJ Barham. “That’s what made us fall in love with music in the first place, and that’s the goal in everything we do.” On their new album The Fear of Standing Still, the North Carolina-bred band embody that dynamic with more intensity than ever before, endlessly matching their gritty breed of country-rock with Barham’s bravest and most incisive songwriting to date. As he reflects on matters both personal and sociocultural—e.g., the complexity of Southern identity, the intersection of generational trauma and the dismantling of reproductive rights—American Aquarium instill every moment of The Fear of
Standing Still with equal parts unbridled spirit and illuminating empathy. 

Recorded live at the legendary Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, The Fear of Standing Still marks American Aquarium’s second outing with producer Shooter Jennings—a three-time Grammy winner who also helmed production on 2020’s critically lauded Lamentations, as well as albums from the likes of Brandi Carlile and Tanya Tucker. In a departure from the stripped-down subtlety of 2022’s Chicamacomico (a largely acoustic rumination on grief), the band’s tenth studio LP piles on plenty of explosive riffs and hard-charging rhythms, bringing a visceral energy to the most nuanced and poetic of lyrics. “In our live show the band’s like a freight train that never lets up, and for this record I really wanted to showcase how big and anthemic we can be,” notes Barham, whose bandmates include guitarist Shane Boeker, pedal-steel guitarist Neil Jones, keyboardist Rhett Huffman, drummer Ryan Van Fleet, and bassist Alden Hedges. Mixed by four-time Grammy winner Trina Shoemaker (Queens of the Stone Age, Emmylou Harris), The Fear of Standing Still shares its title with one of the first songs Barham wrote for the album—a soul-baring look at how raising a family has radically altered his priorities and perspective. In the process of creating what he refers to as “a record about growing up and growing older,” Barham also found his songwriting closely informed by his ten years of sobriety, as well as his ever-deepening connection with American Aquarium’s community of fans. “Whenever someone tells me
that one of our songs helped them in some way, it encourages me to be more and more open—almost like peeling a layer off an onion,” he says. “This album is a writer 18 years into his career, peeling away the next layer and seeing just how human we can make this thing.”
Expanding on the raw vitality of previous albums like 2012’s Jason Isbell-produced Burn.Flicker.Die, The Fear of Standing Still kicks offs with “Crier”: a gloriously ferocious track that swiftly obliterates worn-out ideals of masculine behavior. “It’s a song about breaking down what many of us learned from our fathers growing up—this idea that boys don’t cry, or that crying is a form of weakness,” says Barham, who co-wrote “Crier” with singer/songwriter Stephen Wilson Jr. “I wanted to send the message that it’s not natural to bottle everything up inside, because all of us are meant to feel.”

Fueled by a savage and soaring vocal performance from Barham, the result is a perfect encapsulation of American Aquarium’s multilayered artistry. “I don’t think anyone’s going to get through that first listen of ‘Crier’ and think, ‘Wow, what a great song about disrupting the cycle of toxic masculinity!’” Barham points out. “It seems more likely that it’ll make them want to dance and jump around, and then when they put the headphones on and listen a little closer to the lyrics, that’s when they’ll start to understand what we’re talking about.”

A resolutely outspoken artist who’s emerged as one of the most progressive voices in country music, Barham infuses an element of trenchant social commentary into a number of tracks on The Fear of Standing Still. On “Southern Roots,” for instance, Georgia-born singer/songwriter Katie Pruitt joins American Aquarium for a spellbinding meditation on pushing against the boundaries of traditional
Southern identity. “People can complain all they want about how backwards the South is, but the only way we’ll see any change is to take it upon ourselves,” says Barham. “For me, that means raising my daughter so that she’ll never witness the closed-mindedness and blatant disrespect for certain people that I often saw at her age. Because if you really love something the way I love the South, then you want to see it grow.” Co-written by Barham and Pruitt, “Southern Roots” starts off as a beautifully understated folk song graced with heavenly harmonies, then builds to a reverb-drenched frenzy at the bridge—a shift that sharply intensifies the track’s galvanizing power. Another song anchored in Barham’s ardent belief in breaking generational patterns, “Babies Having Babies” arrives as a finespun piece of storytelling that doubles as an emphatic pro-choice anthem.

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American Aquarium - Standing Room Only
  • 450 Franklin Street
  • Rocky Mount, VA 24151
  • to
  • Harvester Performance Center
  • GA Standing $27; VIP Standing $47; VIP Tables (up to 4 people) $248