Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is arguably one of the most technical and well-produced studio albums of all time. Recorded at the famed Abbey Road Studios in London, the sessions involved some of the most advanced recording techniques of the time including multi-track recording and tape loops, all of which are now customary by today’s studio standards. Among its legend is the haunting and eerie synchronous connection with the MGM classic The Wizard of Oz.
So when Buffalo based groove rock quartet Aqueous announced it would be hosting a night dedicated to the cinematic classic during the second night of their homecoming Halloween run, many fans wondered exactly how these two magical worlds would collide. To the delight of their fans, Aqueous laid out a seamless and perfectly executed second set on Halloween night– Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety, while dressed as the cast of the Wizard of Oz.
It’s was the band’s first foray into a multi-day Halloween run and they tackled two separate themes; Back to the Future on Friday night and The Wizard of Oz for Saturday’s Halloween festivities. The weekend was a hit among the band’s hometown fans, selling out both nights at Buffalo Iron Works. The overall feel of the weekend was just what you would expect -whimsical, magical and strange – and well worth the $20- two day price of admission.
Funktional Flow kicked off both nights with stellar sets. Their brand of funk/rock/reggae fusion feels organic at its best moments. There is almost an underlying Americana folk vibe to their smoothest reggae inspired vibes. Original tunes like “Moonlight Tide” and “Leaving Town” showcased the band’s new direction since the addition of Joey Lewis (guitar) and Matt Lester (keys) this past April. To say that the version of Funktional Flow fans saw this weekend is a vast improvement on its former self in almost an understatement. The line-up addition have the band going in a positive direction musically.
“The type of music we play really calls for the line-up we have now and it has helped us grow exponentially,” noted bassist Ben Whelan. “With the addition of Joey and Matt we truly feel as though we gained brothers not just band mates. It really has been a great time growing with them and having them add their flavor to the mix. It doesn’t always go that way with new additions so we are really blessed in that aspect!”
Their new confidence spilled over into some fun covers including Phish’s “Lizards” and Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke”. Funktional Flow closed out their weekend with a stunning rendition of Aqueous’ “Warren in the Window”. Aqueous would later return the favor with a powerful version of “Mulligan’s”, a Funktional Flow fan favorite.
Funktional Flow is slated to release a new full length album this winter. The band looks to tour in support of the new music with a multi-city tour that will take their sound out of Western New York and more towards the Northeast states.
Friday Night’s Aqueous set proved to be the more upbeat of their sets. In true Back to the Future form, they opened the festivities with film’s theme song “The Power of Love” and closed the night with an Aqueo-fied version of the film’s other Huey Lewis and the News tune “Back in Time”. The set was packed full of high energy moments including “”Don’t Do it”, “Strange Times” and “Underlyer” as well as a version of “Aldehyde” complete with a horn section featuring Justin Lackie on saxophone and Pat Allison on Trumpet. In addition, Aqueous pulled out a rare live version of Dr. Brox from the bands 2012 release “Willy is 40”. The evening continued to be full of surprises, as the band teased both the Chordettes classic “Mr. Sandman” as well as Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” before crashing into a fast paced and edgy version of “Origami”. Of course, the band played tribute to the film’s classic school dance musical moment with their own versions of both the Penguin’s “Earth Angel” as well as the Chuck Berry classic “Johnny B. Goode”.
Saturday night, Aqueous brought the best qualities from the Wizard of Oz to the evening. Both the music and the atmosphere were strange and dark with brilliant pops of technicolor whimsy throughout the night. The first set opened with a mash-up style version of the MGM Wizard of Oz intro and Somewhere Over the Rainbow before melding into a more mellow but groovy version of “Kitty Chaser (Explosions in the Sky)’. Aqueous filled the night’s first set with a powerful collection of original material including “Eon Don” “King for a Day” and a non-stop “Complex Pt.1” into “Wandering” into “Complex Pt. 2”. Matt Harris (saxophone) joined the band on stage to a jazzed out version of the Oz classic “If I Only had a Brain.”
As set two loomed, the room was buzzing with rumors that the band might play Dark Side of the Moon. So when the sounds of the albums iconic opening track “Speak to Me” ushered in the second set, the crowd seem to watch in disbelief. Harris returned to the stage for saxophone duty while Funktional Flow’s Joey Lewis came on board for various guitar work. During “Great Gig in the Sky” the crowd was brought to their knees by vocalist Sarah Jane, who’s haunting and perfectly emoted vocals were the highlight of the set. Adding to the ambiance was the incredible lighting from Craig Freudenthal that only elevated the overall experience.
Aqueous returned with a brief encore that included a stunning version of the Elton John classic “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road” before ending the weekend with “All In”.
Beyond the sheer technical skill and flawless timing, Aqueous executed pure confidence while accomplishing a feat that many musicians simply couldn’t execute. The talent and precision it takes to perform Dark Side in its entirety in real time didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated by anyone in the attendance. And the stunning part of it was that Aqueous simply made it look easy.
If this weekend’s shows are any indication, the results are proving that Aqueous is poised to be the band to see on next summer’s festival circuit. The addition of Tom Vayo behind the drums has given Aqueous a more polish and precise sound. It appears and sounds like the band has taken the last few months to fit his style neatly into their musical mix.
“Tom has to be one of the most creative, languid, and definitely dynamic drummers I’ve come across- we’ve spent the last few weeks on the road getting to know each other on a deeper level musically (and personal level really), and I don’t think any of us could be more excited about what he’s bringing to the AQ sound,” noted Aqueous guitarist Mike Gantzer.
Gantzer also went on to acknowledge the changes. “The improvising has been getting deeper and deeper, and every night feels like a new adventure. It’s been awesome and I’m excited to see where it’ll go, if it’s that on point in such a short amount of time! Tom’s also an awesome, fun, silly dude and having him around has pushed the fun level over the top too, which is just as important.”
And for Aqueous, the fun part seems to go without saying. This weekend proved that while they take themselves seriously as musicians, they don’t take themselves too seriously. And that’s what Aqueous fans seem to know, the band isn’t just there to make music, they are also there to be part of the fun.
Fans looking to relive the weekend or simply wanting to hear it for the first time are in luck. Dan Brace of Sonic Farms Studios was on hand this weekend to track both Friday and Saturday night.
After returning home from a three week Southeastern run to play Halloween at home, Aqueous jumps back on the road hitting Michigan on November 4th. Their remaining fall dates have them making their way out west to Colorado before heading to the Northeast where they will kick off the new year on January 1st, opening for one night of Twiddle’s three day new year’s run in Burlington, Vermont.