New Year’s Eve is akin to a national holiday, mixed with pilgrimage, for fans of Aqueous and others alike. It’s a magical time when your favorite band plays one final show, where nothing is left behind as you storm into the next year.
Sometimes, it requires a long drive or even flying across the country. For a true and weathered fan, this isn’t something to think twice about when it comes to your band. You do whatever it takes. However, if you’re lucky, they play in your hometown; and if you’re really lucky, the band is from your hometown too.
It’s hard to put into words, but there’s a certain energy and pride people have about Buffalo—the oft-overlooked city in Western New York. It’s a truly intense, and sometimes overwhelming, love for any and all things Buffalo (Go Bills).
Western and Central New York felt an immense joy when Buffalo-based Aqueous announced they’d once again usher in the new year at Buffalo’s Town Ballroom.
Buffalo loves Aqueous, and that love is equally reciprocated. The band chose the city to host their New Year’s shows for the majority of the decade. They played smaller venues over the years, such as Nietzche’s (250-person capacity) and Iron Works (500-person capacity). Eventually, they needed a larger space to accommodate an ever-growing fanbase. This led to their first New Year’s Eve show at the renowned Town Ballroom (1000-person capacity) in 2017.
In 2018, the band took it one step further and scheduled a two-night run in Buffalo. They paid respects to their past with a VIP show at Nietzche’s, followed by a sold-out NYE show at Town Ballroom. Due to increasing demand, Aqueous blessed Buffalo with two nights at Town Ballroom in 2019.
Before the doors opened and the festivities officially began on December 30th, Aqueous held a special King for A Day event at Town Ballroom, which truly felt like a family reunion. The package came with a special VIP set, free merch, photographs with the band, and chicken wing bar. Hugs and smiles littered the line where fans waited to collect their signed postcards and pins.
Prior to an intimate acoustic set, Mike Gantzer (guitar/vocals), Dave Loss (guitar/vocals/keys), Evan McPhaden (bass/synth), and Rob Houk (drummer/vocals) casually took photos and met with fans. It genuinely looked like a room full of friends hanging out together. Aqueous truly know their fans and a great number of them on a first-name basis. Knowing that some of their fans are vegan or vegetarian, they supplied vegan chicken wings. It was ultimately a sign of respect, even in Buffalo where that may seem sacrilegious.
Following the meet and greet, Aqueous strolled on stage for their second-ever acoustic set. The vibe was perfect. The set contained an ideal amount of banter and storytelling and made it feel like you were sitting in on a practice session with the band. It was one of the most intimate shows Aqueous has played. They debuted new material, jammed on old AQ classics and even covered “America” by Simon and Garfunkel.
The indie-groove quartet closed out the acoustic set with a rendition of “On The Edge”, from their most recent EP Burn It Down. Here, Gantzer revealed he wrote it with acoustic intentions. It was a breath of fresh air. As folks made their way to the bar the general doors opened and allowed more fans into the building. The party had officially begun.
If there’s one thing you should know, it’s that Aqueous loves a good themed event. The theme for these two days was classic ’70s (12/30) and ’80s (12/31). Stepping into the Town Ballroom felt like stepping into a time machine. It was a splendid sight, as flowy-floral dresses and silk button-ups donned over bright tie-dye. Set to open the night was the in-your-face rock and roll trio from Saratoga Springs, NY, Wild Adriatic.
Singer and guitarist Travis Gray‘s vocals were reminiscent of a blues-based Robert Plant. The heavy-handed drumming of Mateo Vosganian and killer basslines combined with outrageously smooth footwork from Rich Derbyshire backed Gray. Town Ballroom was now rocking and rolling. The room was certifiably electric when Aqueous took the stage and the house lights turned off.
The 70’s homage continued as Aqueous, dressed in quintessential 70’s gear, kicked off their set with two consecutive covers. “Fever Dog” by Stillwater segued to Black Sabbath‘s “Paranoid”, which had both old and new fans floored. The band never looked back from this point and launched into their infectiously fun “Burn It Down”. Their original boasted a huge jam in the middle before it came back to a chorus that gave fans a sing-along opportunity.
Aqueous continued to keep their foot on the gas. They ripped through more original music before getting back into covers. The iconic “Slow Ride” by Foghat preceded Led Zeppelin‘s “Misty Mountain Hop”, which featured Travis of Wild Adriatic sitting in on vocals. “Random Company” was the last song of the first set. It contained the biggest jam of the night, where an already high bar was raised through the stratosphere.
The second set of the night ensued. Legendary covers interwove non-stop bouncing around AQ originals, as each member of the band wore smiles so big they could be seen from the back of the room. One of the more surprising covers the band whipped out for this set was the disco-anthem, “You Should Be Dancing” by the Bee Gees. McPhaden laid down some incredibly thumping bass as Loss sang a spot-on impression of Barry Gibb’s infamous falsetto that could have shattered fine china.
It didn’t seem possible to raise the energy even higher. That’s exactly what they did with “All In”, though. It’s known for its varying time signature changes that really keep the band on their toes and fans found themselves shifting from thrashing around to softly swaying their hips.
During their jam of “All In” the band seamlessly segued into “Do You Feel Like We Do” by Peter Frampton. Gantzer stole the show on this one as he ripped a blazing hot five-minute talkbox solo. It’s not a tool he uses frequently, but after the thunderous applause he received from the crowd it’s safe to say it won’t be his last time using it. The band segued back into “All In” and ended the set in a cascade of light and sound. A deafening roar of cheer erupted from a clearly satisfied crowd.
David Loss played keys on one of the most famous covers of the two-night run, “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John to end the night. Loss’ voice combined with the white floodlights, both on stage and in the crowd, emitting an ethereal feeling while fans took part in one of most feel-good singalongs.
With that, night one was in the books and everyone in attendance was ready to dig in for night two and to say goodbye to the decade once and for all.
The second night brought a new theme and more energy than the night before, as their NYE event had officially sold out the morning of the show. Buffalo’s own Witty Tarbox started things off for ’80s night.
Witty Tarbox is well-known to Buffalo natives. Imagine West Coast surf rock meets jazz meets East Coast jam. These guys were an absolute force, commanding the crowd with their musical chops and infectious on-stage personas.
On ’80s night, Aqueous made their way to the stage dressed in the all-white suits and neon sunglasses they recently wore for their music video “Come and Go”. To no one’s surprise, they opened with “Come and Go” before touching into the one-hit-wonder “I Ran” by Flock of Seagulls.
Much like the prior night, both sets on NYE were about a 70/30 split between original music and covers. The originals played during the first set were fast and heavy, which included a “Warren in The Window” that visibly melted some faces in the crowd. People jumped up and down, hooting and hollering as Aqueous ended the first set with “Strange Times”.
They kicked off the second set with a tribute to Prince, covering “Let’s Go Crazy”. From here the band took a bass-and-synth-heavy approach to “Skyway”. Bodies writhed around in pure ecstasy while they switched back and forth between 80’s juke-box classics. Aqueous followed this format for the rest of their second set, alternating between original music and covers up until the midnight countdown began.
When midnight hit, silver and gold confetti and balloons were shot throughout Town Ballroom. Hugs and kisses flowed from friends and lovers alike. We officially entered 2020. Aqueous ushered in the new decade by segueing their originals “20/20” and “Origami”, which instantly brought the energy back to the Town Ballroom as they closed out their second set. The only thing left to do before everyone made their way home was an encore.
On the first night during the VIP acoustic set someone in the crowd shouted, “Let Rob sing!” to which Gantzer replied, “It’s not that we don’t let him sing…”. When the band returned to stage for their night two encore there was someone else behind the kit. It was none other than Buffalo’s own Ryan Nogle of Functional Flow. Rob made his way to the front of the stage with only a mic in his hand and shrugged to the crowd with a smirk on his face.
Much to everyone’s surprise, the band played the hit coming-of-age-anthem, “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds. Rob bellowed out the signature, “HEY. HEY. HEY. HEY!” and continued singing the first verse. His voice was the perfect match for the song. Many fans laughed at the absurdity that the band’s drummer, wearing all white with a perfectly trimmed mustache, sang so angelically. Rob walked off the stage as the band continued to play the song.
Though there was no sight of Rob, fans heard his vocals from the speakers. They swiveled their heads and looked around to try and find him. Then, from the back of the room, a white light shined on the bar illuminating him. He stood at the bar before making his way through the crowd back to the front of the stage. Just like that, the magical evening and two-day run had drawn to a close.
Gantzer spoke to the crowd, thanked them, mentioned how proud Aqueous is to be from Buffalo, and how much they love the city and the people. This evoked the loudest round of applause of the run.
These two shows were the perfect summation of Aqueous. They have nothing but love for the city that has loved them from the start. A can’t-stop-won’t-quit attitude translates into non-stop energy any time they play. They have fun while continuously pushing the boundaries of their music. The energy in Town Ballroom was something that had to be seen and felt before one really understands just how much love and energy can exist within a venue.
At the end of the day, that’s why we are all in this. To connect and to help each other grow. To make the most out of living with the people that you love by your side.
Aqueous is poised for a big 2020. They are expected to perform many headlining shows in addition to the festival appearances that have already been announced. Visit their official website for more information.
Setlist: Aqueous | Town Ballroom | Buffalo, New York | 12/30/19
Set One (VIP): Say It Again > They’re Calling For Ya , America, Spirit and Soul, On the Edge
Set Two: Fever Dog > Paranoid , Burn It Down, The Median, Gordon’s Mule, Slow Ride > Misty Mountain Hop, Random Company
Set Three: Dave’s Song > Sweet Emotion , Little Something To Me, You Should Be Dancing > Don’t Do It, All In > Do You Feel Like We Do > All In
Encore: Eon Don > Tiny Dancer
 Acoustic debut
 New arrangement
 Simon & Garfunkel
 Black Sabbath
 w/Travis Gray
 w/Ryan John Nogle
 Bee Gee’s
 Peter Frampton
 Neon Don
 Elton John
Setlist: Aqueous | Town Ballroom | Buffalo, New York | 12/31/19
Set One: Come and Go, I Ran > Warren in the Window, Moving In Stereo > Second Sight > Marty, Hungry Like The Wolf > Strange Times
Set Two: Let’s Go Crazy, Skyway, I Melt With You, On The Edge, Don’t You Want Me > Be The Same > Auld Lang Syne, 20/20 > Origami
Encore: Don’t You Forget About Me
 Band dressed in music video outfits
 Flock of Seagulls
 Included skit of Evan eating pizza from Fast Times at Ridgemont High
 The Cars
 Duran Duran
 Modern English
 The Human League
 Simple Minds
 Rob Houk vocals