A strange summer in a strange year has seen a dearth of entertainment options. No movies. No music. A small band of heroes, named Aqueous, sought to fill the void for at least two beautiful August nights at the Silver Lake Drive-In Theater, amongst the beautiful rolling hills of Western New York. In classic Drive-In fashion, it was a double-feature, rife with of edge-of-your-seat thrills, suspenseful popcorn-tossing excitement, and of course heart-touching drama.
Night one opened with the slinky grooves of “Phase III” and didn’t really let up from there, for what turned into a non-stop funk-out dance party, appeasing the live-music-starved audience. It wouldn’t be long before the band sunk it’s sharpening teeth into an epic 30-minute “Origami.” It explored multiple plot points before exploding in straight fire guitar shredding. Like donning 3-D glasses, fuzzy dissonance came into sharp jump-off-the-stage focus, throwing the crowd’s heads back in awe.
The fans weren’t the only one’s missing live music. The band was clearly feeling the emptiness of the summer concert schedule, in particular the jam-scene mainstay Phish. They sprinkled multiple teases throughout the weekend. “Origami” featured some “Bathtub Gin” riffing, and then “Reba” and “Down With Disease” were jokingly teased before kicking into a full-fledged cover of “Horn” complete with real live horn honking from the crowd. Later on it came as a “Tweezer Reprise” hint here or a “Maze” segment there, like a famous actor playing a winking cameo in a smaller film.
Having gotten the gang back and firing on all cylinders in night one, the story arc advanced in night two. The heroes intent on ousting the evil villain who had robbed the world of its live music energy source, called upon the Aquengers. And they wouldn’t disappoint. At least for a short time, the air would fill with sweet sounds, the audience would laugh, dance and smile, the world seemed to be right side up once again.
The night’s opener, “On the Edge” dispensed with the booty-shaking funk of part one, and dropped quickly into a dark groove. Guitarist Mike Gantzer added in some twisted slide work while bassist Evan McPhaden pushed out monster-crushing bass blasts. It was some of the finest playing of the weekend, the band was locked in from the get-go. The ensuing “Random Company” rose and fell again and again, producing bigger and bigger swells of energy, in what would set the tone for an evening full of brilliant slow-building jams.
Knowing it was as big an enemy they would ever be called upon to defeat, the team added the friendly neighborhood Spider Man to their roster, with a fun instrumental run through the classic cartoon theme. Would it be enough? Even when the sound system went down during “Be the Same,” the band persisted, blasting through the minor hiccup with a set-closing rock out.
The 3-song hour-plus final set featured even more suspense. The band was hyper-focused and patient, developing in-the-moment beauty time and again, with ever more revelatory peaks. David Loss’s multi-weapon attacks would reach a climax in the show-closing “Triangle” with rapid-fire guitar and an extended classic rock-out ending.
Ultimately though, after the dust cleared the future of music is no clearer. No one knows when normal live music gigging will resume. Though drummer Rob Houk cut that tension with some much appreciated comic relief. He provided some fantastic banter throughout the two-night run, and also hammed it up on quality covers in the encore slots. Night one saw him singing from the roof on Pearl Jam’s “Dissident” while night two had him crushing Van Halen’s “Jump” after having hilariously threatened some Bon Jovi earlier in the evening.
While a Drive-In concert is certainly not ideal, under the current circumstances, the promoters at Buffalo Iron Works and the venue Silver Lake Drive-In provided the band and fans a very safe environment to briefly enjoy some level of normalcy to what would usually be a summer full of long nights of live music in sheds, fields and anywhere you can fit a stage.
Friday, August 7
Set 1: Phase III, How High You Fly, Origami, Horn (Phish cover, debut) Eon Don
Set 2: Skyway > Calling Out, Marty, Come and Go > Don’t Do It
Encore: Dissident (Pearl Jam cover, debut) w/ Ryan Nogle on drums
Saturday, August 8
Set 1: On the Edge > Random Company > Spider-Man > Random Company, Weight of the Word, Be the Same
Set 2: Dave’s Song, Color Wheel, Triangle
Encore: 6’s and 7’s (debut), Jump (Van Halen cover, debut) w/ Ryan Nogle on drums