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Encouraging fans, added exposure spur Aqueous rise

Buffalo groove gaggle Aqueous has not been abiding in anonymity since forming a decade ago. Whether recording live material, cultivating spacey jams for an upcoming album or tirelessly touring from anywhere to everywhere, the lauded quartet is out there.

However, even with a growing notoriety on the national circuit, it doesn’t hurt to have a recent Huffington Post headline proclaim “It You Haven’t Heard of the Band Aqueous Yet, That’s About to Change.”

“It's been pretty cool, honestly,” guitarist Dave Loss said of the coverage, published in late May. “It was a big step forward for us, and it was definitely a validating kind of thing. We've gotten a lot of very nice comments, and people who might not necessarily follow the band closely take notice when you're in a publication like that.”

The story ran just after Loss, vocalist/guitarist Mike Gantzer, bassist Evan McPhaden and drummer Rob Houk released its latest live album, “Element Pt. 1,” a near two-hour boogie through the foursome’s stylistically intermingling capabilities modeled on past studio albums such as 2014’s “Cycles.” Combined with this sprawling odyssey, the Huffington Post piece’s details likely nudged more than a few curious readers to the band’s danceable meanderings and groovy jazz-fusion pulled from the Steely Dan playbook.

But for fans familiar with the majesty of Aqueous – set to join the likes of Real Estate, Moon Taxi and Solidisco for the Cobblestone Live! Music & Arts Festival on July 15 and 16 – the news clip was an overdue endorsement of the two-way relationship that propels the Queen City collective and its devoted jam denizens known as “AQuaintances.”

“It's such a unique and awesome trademark of this scene to have fans that are so supportive of taking chances,” said Gantzer, reached recently after a pair of Aqueous shows in New York City. “They encourage us to create something on the spot and we just feel really grateful to have this little universe of music to dive into with these fans.”

Buffalo crowds have a history of both spawning native groove merchants and supporting the on-stage exploration of visiting artists. Genre brethren moe. and Soulive were both born here and the Grateful Dead delivered legendary sets inside Memorial Auditorium and Rich Stadium. Despite this lineage, in today's age of the stunted attention span, it's challenging for any band to keep fans away from their iPhones for the extent of a four-minute song, let alone a twisting, 20-minute exploration like Aqueous track “Aldehyde.”

Gantzer said that’s where the band’s reciprocal relationship with its growing fan base bears fruit and, constructively, solicits fascination from national publications.

“On our end, we kind of think of it as our responsibility to feed into the energy of the crowd and take them on the journey with us when we're delving into some of the deeper musical explorations,” Gantzer said. “We try to be pretty aware and tuned into what the audience is feeling, and there's a really amazing push and pull between the audience and band that can occur. I think that's what keeps us and the fans engaged every night.”

Music Preview

Cobblestone Live! Music & Arts Festival starts at 1:30 p.m. July 15 and 16 in the Cobblestone District (between Illinois and Columbia streets) with stages outside and in Buffalo Iron Works and Lockhouse Distillery. Aqueous performs at 7:30 p.m. July 15 and 9:30 p.m. July 16. Tickets are $25 to $200; cobblestonelive.com.

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