Aqueous (photo: Joshua Huver)
East Coast jam band sensations Aqueous and BIG Something teamed up to take on the West Coast, and on Wednesday, February 27 they brought their co-headlining tour to Cornerstone Craft Beer & Live Music in Berkeley, California.
The two bands are taking turns switching back and forth who opens and who closes all tour long. In Berkeley, the opening band was Burlington, North Carolina based six-piece BIG Something.
BIG Something is a six-piece electro-funk rock-and-roll-driven good time from Burlington, NC. Featuring Nick MacDaniel on lead vocals and guitar, Jesse Hensley on lead guitar, Casey Cranford on saxophone and EWI, Joshua Kagel on keyboards and synthesizer, Doug Marshall on bass, and drummer Ben Vinograd holding down the floor of the shaking shanty shack of fun that the band creates.
They started with a bang, opening with “The Moonshine” off the band’s sophomore self-titled 2013 release. Hard to miss was the energy and movement between MacDaniel and Hensley. The latter of whom was leaning into the guitar lead early, each often encouraging other throughout.
One of my hallmarks for how much I enjoy myself at a show relates to how much fun the band is having too, and BIG Something traded leads, smiles, and melodies all night long without any lag.
“Pnuts Song,” an old-school song appearing on the 2014 albumTruth Serum, was sandwiched between the opener and “Wildfire.” “Wildfire” is the latest single from BIG Something’s 5th studio album The Otherside, released in 2018.
“The Flood” came next in a rushing, roaring fashion. Carrying the crowd into the early catalog of the Red Hot Chili Peppers with “If You Have To Ask.” The tune didn’t catch right away, but it the crowd recognized it soon enough, losing themselves to the funk.
A hot segue from Truth Serum’s “Love Generator” to “The Curse Of Julia Brown” from their self-titled release brought the set near its end. For the final song of their opening set, MacDaniel retrieves the onstage mandolin. Anyone familiar recognizes the cue for “Amanda Lynn” off the band’s 2010 debut, Songs From The Middle of Nowhere.
Together, guitarist/vocalists Mike Gantzer and David Loss, bassist Evan McPhaden, and drummer Rob Houk are the Buffalo, NY based four piece Aqueous. Although they have led an impressive touring regimen throughout the East Coast, this was the band’s Bay Area debut.
The first 30 minutes of Aqueous’ headline slot was split up between three wild takes on recent favorites. The first two tracks both happened to be my favorite off the new record. “Second Sight” followed by “Weight of the World” both appear on the 2018 full length release Color Wheel. Both also received extensive solo treatment featuring plenty of breathing room and setting a laid back, but driven tone. “D.A.R.E.” followed, a new song that debuted just over a year ago on NYE 2017. It is also the only song from the setlist that hasn’t been in consistent rotation, last time played just over two months before.
“D.A.R.E.” segued into “Don’t Do It,” which appears on the 2016 EP Best In Show. Whatever it was, they did it. A 17-and-a-half-minute take on the song saw all four members of the band lock into groove after groove trading leads and riffing off each other without overcrowding the soundscape.
“Warren in the Window” from the 2012 release Willy Is 40followed, making for five songs in the first hour. They didn’t spend too much more time on “Warren” than they needed to, moving on after finishing rather than stretching out a jam.
That was not the case for the 15-minute “Underlyer,” that came next, another track from the Best Show EP which kicked off the next round of segues to round off the set. The middle peak of these final three songs came with the smooth transitions into and out of “Mosquito Valley 1.” Ironically, from Aqueous’s album Giant Something. I’m curious if there is a connection there!
The set ended with a return to Best In Show for a massive, 14-minute “Random Company.” The crowd, decently sized, enthusiastically cheered for an encore and Aqueous was more than happy to oblige. The show closed with an uplifting take of “Realize Your Light” from the Color Wheel release. Nearly everyone in attendance would attest, both bands need to return as soon as possible.