Header Photo: Joshua Black Wilkins
On Feb. 5, some 2000 people will ascend on Raleigh for a two night show at Lincoln Theatre. They’ll don an array of shirts and hats from their favorite bands, but it’s not Hopscotch. It’s not the international bluegrass festival. Instead, it’s the second annual Road Trip to Raleigh put on by local Americana band, American Aquarium.
Last February, their two-night show at Lincoln Theatre, which holds 900 people, drew people from 31 states and 3 countries. “We travel 300 days a year and play all over the country,” said Barham. And while the band played in those states, and even those countries, hundreds of people trek to Raleigh to hear American Aquarium play in their home town. This year, two-months out, the shows are already over halfway sold out and opening acts haven’t even been announced yet.
“I love this town. And I tell everybody about it,” explained lead singer, BJ Barham. “Road trip to Raleigh is my chance for people to actually come and see it.” Small town and big cities, near and far, American Aquarium is waving the Raleigh flag and bringing their version of “Oak City Rock-and-Roll” to the masses.
“There are kids that come from across the country just to have a beer at Slim’s because I wrote a song about it,” explained Barham. “The fact that other people fall in love with this city as much as I did, even if it’s for two days, the fact that they could go to Chicago or New York, or other big towns, but they’re coming to Raleigh, North Carolina to see us…that’s pretty rad.”
The band encourages out-of-towners to visit some of their favorite restaurants and bars, which translates to additional revenue for local businesses. And for a band that is only here 60 to 100 days a year, this is American Aquarium’s way of giving back to the city they call home.
“We get to bring our favorite bands we find on the road and show them to Raleigh,” Barham said. With the success of the show, American Aquarium can now afford to fill the bill with acts that may not have otherwise come to town. “Even if the opening bands don’t sell any tickets, we’re good. We just get to have bands we love, come to Raleigh for the weekend.”
This success did not come easily, but was instead gradually built through hard work and endless touring for the last decade. In 2012, American Aquarium played 307 shows out of necessity. Last year, the app Bands in Town named American Aquarium the hardest working band in the world, having played more shows than any other band.
“It feels like just yesterday that I was in college and playing shows at the Brewery,” explained Barham. From those humble days of selling tickets to 5 people at the Brewery to being on the verge of outgrowing the Lincoln is something American Aquarium is still coming to terms with.
“Everybody is just getting used to paying their bills on time. Like holy shit, we can go out and eat dinner,” joked Barham. “We’re not playing SNL, but I’m keep the lights on at the house, and that’s all I can ask.”
In addition to being their hometown end to their latest tour, this year’s Road Trip to Raleigh is a celebration for Barham and American Aquarium of the success that 10 years of hard work has built.
But most importantly, it’s a celebration of Raleigh for those of us who live here and those of us who don’t.–
Purchase tickets online for American Aquarium’s Feb 5th show at:
To keep up with the band visit their site at: