When: Tue., May 9, 9 p.m. 2017
For the past four summers, American Aquarium leader BJ Barham has taken a short solo run through the Southeast to give his road warrior band a couple of weeks off before festival season ramps up. This summer will be a significantly lengthier undertaking: with fifty-three shows in just under two months, he'll traverse forty-eight states and Washington, D.C., on the heels of an early April announcement that the rest of American Aquarium's current lineup—together since 2014—would leave the roots-rock outfit following the departure of guitarists Ryan Johnson and Colin DiMeo earlier this year.
"I know the timing seems extremely convenient," Barham admits, while explaining that this tour has been in the planning phase since he found out former drummer Kevin McClain was taking June off for a cross-country bike trek, more than a month before he first caught wind of any changes in membership. American Aquarium won't go away, either. Barham has plans to head back out with a revamped iteration—"version 13.0," he jokes—on a full band tour beginning in September.
"These solo tours are fun for me because if someone in the crowd yells out a song off The Bible and the Bottle, the rest of the band might not know it but I still do," Barham says, explaining that he might normally only have a third of American Aquarium's ninety-two-song catalog at his disposal. "This allows me to go back and pick those other songs up and see what still works and what doesn't."
While Barham acknowledges he's in the middle of a few rebuilding months as he pieces together the next lineup of a band that's already cycled through twenty-six members over a decade, he's also using the time to reflect on the band's past.
"American Aquarium has kind of always been a vehicle for my songs and that's not going to change," he says. "Most of [the most recent members] joined in their mid-twenties, so this was just a matter of priorities shifting as they got older. Looking back on it, I ran them too hard. We were playing two hundred fifty to three hundred shows a year for a decade, and I didn't give them enough time off to be normal human beings."
Barham won't be slowing down much, though. He'll hit the studio this fall with his new crew to record American Aquarium's ninth album, Things Change. He says the recent "chaos" has reignited his creative energy, and he plans to begin road-testing a few new songs on this tour, aiming to release the LP early next year. —Spencer Griffith
Price: $20 - $25