Aqualung @ The Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles, with Krista Polvere

Aqualung and Krista Polvere at sound check

I went backstage at the Aqualung show, and everyone touched my nuts.

Monday’s show at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles gave me a tiny taste of what it’s like to be on the road for a national tour. I arrived at about 5:30, and my good friend, Ehren Ebbage, who is on board for this tour as a member of Krista Polvere’s band, let me come sit in the theater during the sound check. (I hadn’t had the presence of mind to charge my real camera before heading up for the show, so all I can offer is the modest iPhone photo I snapped during said sound check.)

I love moments like that. Krista Polvere and her band (her fiancee, Mark, on bass and Ehren on lap steel and guitar) were on stage when I came in, playing bits and pieces of the set they’d play later in the evening. Eventually, Matt “Aqualung” Hales joined them on stage to work on the number he’d be playing with them during Krista’s set and the numbers they’d be sitting in on during his set. The lighting was provided by two large skylights in the ceiling, and the musicians opted to shut off the front-of-house speakers every now and again, so the experience was really organic and intimate. It’s always so refreshing to hear musicians you respect playing au naturale and find that their talent is substantial– that it transcends modern production tools.

When the sound check was over, we all adjourned backstage. I’d hoped that Ehren and I would have time to grab dinner and catch up, but there was a small enough window before they had to take the stage that we joined the rest of the crew in placing Thai food orders with the road manager. While we waited, Ehren gave me a quick tour of the fancy bus they’ll all be living on for the next three weeks, and we grabbed the box of nuts I had in my car so we could snack while we waited for dinner. This wound up being a good thing, since the Thai food never materialized and the only other sustenance back stage was whiskey.

Before the show, Krista, Mark and Ehren rehearsed more in the theater the Bootleg uses as a green room. I wound up sitting next to Matt, eating nuts and joking around. I knew before Monday that he was talented, but I was delighted to learn that he’s also charming and funny. The wit the audience experienced on stage was genuine, and I learned some very interesting things about personal hygiene and tours.

Once the sold-out show began, I found a spot to stand where I could see pretty well, and enjoyed Krista’s set immensely. Her stage presence was light and engaging, her voice was clear and beautiful, and her original songs had the crowd fully engaged while they awaited Aqualung.

When Aqualung came on, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It turns out that I was only familiar with a small part of his catalogue beforehand, and that his hit “Fingertip” is kind of a departure from a lot of his work. The first songs in the set were beautiful and melancholy. His wife, Kim Oliver, joined him on stage for a few numbers, and around the 9th song, so did Ehren. Over the course of the rest of the set, the tempo and mood of the songs rose, and more and more people filled the stage. “Fingertip” was the penultimate song in the set, featuring Kim Oliver, Krista Polvere, Ehren, and Mark. After the traditional pretend end of the show, Aqualung treated the audience to a long encore made up of requests shouted from the crowd.

YouTube user diegohenri got a video of “Fingertip” at the show, so here’s a peek at what you missed (or saw– if you were there)…

Overall, it was a great night. I’d definitely recommend the Bootleg Theater for shows– both to play and to attend. The neighborhood was a little dodgy, and there was a lot of construction outside, but the vibe and layout inside were really good. I’d also recommend catching one of the shows on this tour if you can. They’ll be on the road around the country for three weeks, and you can get the full details on Aqualung’s MySpace page.