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American Aquarium

The Watson Twins

Wednesday, September 04, 2024
Doors: 7pm | Show: 8pm
$20 - $30 advance | $22 - $32 day of show


  • This is a ticketed event. Everyone must have a ticket for entry.
  • Join us before the show for dinner & drinks in The Lounge, our full-service restaurant & bar on the upstairs level which opens at 6pm. View menu & make a reservation.
  • Mezzanine ticket holders are seated on the balcony overlooking the main stage, with access to a private bar, restrooms, and dining area where you can order from The Lounge menu.
  • If you require accessible seating and none is available online, please contact us at or 215-222-1400 prior to the show so we can best accommodate your needs.
  • Join the WCL Fan Club for priority entry, food & merch discounts, exclusive offers, and more. Mega & Ultimate Fan levels include 24-hour presale access and no ticket fees.
  • World Cafe Live is a nonprofit independent venue where artistry meets social impact. Every purchase helps support our music education & community programs.
  • See FAQ for more information.
American Aquarium – The Fear of Standing Still

For nearly two decades, American Aquarium have pushed toward that rare form of rock-and-roll that’s revelatory in every sense. “For us the sweet spot is when you’ve got a rock band that makes you scream along to every word, and it’s not until you’re coming down at three a.m. that you realize those words are saying something real about your life,” says frontman BJ Barham. “That’s what made us fall in love with music in the first place, and that’s the goal in everything we do.” On their new album The Fear of Standing Still, the North Carolina-bred band embody that dynamic with more intensity than ever before, endlessly matching their gritty breed of country-rock with Barham’s bravest and most incisive songwriting to date. As he reflects on matters both personal and sociocultural—e.g., the complexity of Southern identity, the intersection of generational trauma and the dismantling of reproductive rights—American Aquarium instill every moment of The Fear of Standing Still with equal parts unbridled spirit and illuminating empathy.

Recorded live at the legendary Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, The Fear of Standing Still marks American Aquarium’s second outing with producer Shooter Jennings—a three-time Grammy winner who also helmed production on 2020’s critically lauded Lamentations, as well as albums from the likes of Brandi Carlile and Tanya Tucker. In a departure from the stripped-down subtlety of 2022’s Chicamacomico (a largely acoustic rumination on grief), the band’s tenth studio LP piles on plenty of explosive riffs and hard-charging rhythms, bringing a visceral energy to the most nuanced and poetic of lyrics. “In our live show the band’s like a freight train that never lets up, and for this record I really wanted to showcase how big and anthemic we can be,” notes Barham, whose bandmates include guitarist Shane Boeker, pedal-steel guitarist Neil Jones, keyboardist Rhett Huffman, drummer Ryan Van Fleet, and bassist Alden Hedges.

Mixed by four-time Grammy winner Trina Shoemaker (Queens of the Stone Age, Emmylou Harris), The Fear of Standing Still shares its title with one of the first songs Barham wrote for the album—a soul-baring look at how raising a family has radically altered his priorities and perspective. In the process of creating what he refers to as “a record about growing up and growing older,” Barham also found his songwriting closely informed by his ten years of sobriety, as well as his ever-deepening connection with American Aquarium’s community of fans. “Whenever someone tells me that one of our songs helped them in some way, it encourages me to be more and more open—almost like peeling a layer off an onion,” he says. “This album is a writer 18 years into his career, peeling away the next layer and seeing just how human we can make this thing.”

Expanding on the raw vitality of previous albums like 2012’s Jason Isbell-produced Burn.Flicker.Die, The Fear of Standing Still kicks offs with “Crier”: a gloriously ferocious track that swiftly obliterates worn-out ideals of masculine behavior. “It’s a song about breaking down what many of us learned from our fathers growing up—this idea that boys don’t cry, or that crying is a form of weakness,” says Barham, who co-wrote “Crier” with singer/songwriter Stephen Wilson Jr. “I wanted to send the message that it’s not natural to bottle everything up inside, because all of us are meant to feel.” Fueled by a savage and soaring vocal performance from Barham, the result is a perfect encapsulation of American Aquarium’s multilayered artistry. “I don’t think anyone’s going to get through that first listen of ‘Crier’ and think, ‘Wow, what a great song about disrupting the cycle of toxic masculinity!’” Barham points out. “It seems more likely that it’ll make them want to dance and jump around, and then when they put the headphones on and listen a little closer to the lyrics, that’s when they’ll start to understand what we’re talking about.”

A resolutely outspoken artist who’s emerged as one of the most progressive voices in country music, Barham infuses an element of trenchant social commentary into a number of tracks on The Fear of Standing Still. On “Southern Roots,” for instance, Georgia-born singer/songwriter Katie Pruitt joins American Aquarium for a spellbinding meditation on pushing against the boundaries of traditional Southern identity. “People can complain all they want about how backwards the South is, but the only way we’ll see any change is to take it upon ourselves,” says Barham. “For me, that means raising my daughter so that she’ll never witness the closed-mindedness and blatant disrespect for certain people that I often saw at her age. Because if you really love something the way I love the South, then you want to see it grow.” Co-written by Barham and Pruitt, “Southern Roots” starts off as a beautifully understated folk song graced with heavenly harmonies, then builds to a reverb-drenched frenzy at the bridge—a shift that sharply intensifies the track’s galvanizing power.

Another song anchored in Barham’s ardent belief in breaking generational patterns, “Babies Having Babies” arrives as a finespun piece of storytelling that doubles as an emphatic pro-choice anthem. “It’s a mix of fiction and personal experience, and felt like an important story to tell at a time when a woman’s right to choose is being taken away,” says Barham. After opening on a nostalgic tale of a whirlwind summer romance, “Babies Having Babies” slowly takes on a powerful urgency as the narrative turns to questions of consequence and self-preservation (from the second verse: “We packed up a bag and drove to the city/Shouldered through the pickets and the hand-painted signs/They called her names while they called themselves Christians/That sort of hate’s got no place in any faith of mine”). “I grew up in a small and very conservative town where abortion was not an option, so I saw a lot of people trapped in that generational cycle of getting pregnant at a young age and ending up stuck in the same town forever instead of following whatever dreams they might have had,” says Barham. “I wanted to write about what could have happened if one of those girls had refused to give up her aspirations, and made that choice to live another way.”

While American Aquarium bring a lived-in intimacy to all of The Fear of Standing Still, songs like “Cherokee Purples” encompass a particularly tender emotionality. A wistful reminiscence of all the charmed and wild summers of Barham’s youth, the track unfolds in so many gorgeously detailed images (kudzu vines and fireflies, menthol cigarettes and Big League Chew), each rendered with a loving specificity that lingers in the listener’s heart. “‘Cherokee Purples’ came from me making a tomato sandwich in my kitchen, and immediately getting taken back to all the summer days when we’d get dropped off at my grandmother’s so my parents could go to work,” says Barham. “It’s crazy how something as simple as a tomato sandwich with Duke’s Mayonnaise can take me to a whole other world, but to me it’s almost like a talisman of where I’m from and how I was raised.” Meanwhile, on “The Curse of Growing Old,” American Aquarium look to the other end of the life spectrum, conjuring a life-affirming mood despite the song’s excruciating honesty. “I wrote that after talking with my grandmother at her 92nd birthday party and learning what it was like for her to grow older and watch so many people in her life pass away,” says Barham. “It’s true that getting older is a gift, but it’s a gift we pay for with an incredible amount of loss.”

For Barham, the sharing of hard truths is indelibly tied to his sense of devotion to American Aquarium’s audience—and to his belief in rock-and-roll as a singularly unifying force. “All I really want to do is put words to the emotions that most people have a difficult time expressing on their own,” he reveals. “No matter what that emotion is, when you put it into a song and then get to those moments when a whole bunch of people are singing that song all together, it makes you see that you’re part of something bigger than you ever realized. That’s when you can really affect people’s lives, and to me this record is another stepping stone to making that a reality.”

Long before their entwined voices took them around the world — first as harmony singers for Jenny Lewis, then as leaders of their own critically-acclaimed band — The Watson Twins grew up in the American South. They sang in the church choir. They listened to gospel classics and country standards. Those sounds became part of their musical foundation, connecting the siblings to their Kentucky hometown even after they relocated to Los Angeles and, years later, settled in Nashville. Chandra and Leigh Watson's southern roots break through the surface once again with Holler (6.23.23). Recorded with their Tennessee-based touring band and produced by Grammy nominee Butch Walker, it's an album that highlights the identical twin sisters' songwriting chops and vocal chemistry. Songs like "Two Timin'" and "The Palace" make room for Telecaster twang and honky-tonk harmonies, while ballads like "Never Be Another You" are countrified classics for the modern world. Together, these 10 songs nod to the siblings' old-school influences while boldly pushing forward into new territory. Captured during a series of live-in-the-studio recording sessions, Holler isn't just The Watson Twins' most collaborative album to date — it's their strongest, too.