Prayers for Atheists and Aquifer at Studio Seven
January 7, 2010
Review by Virginia Eader
Photos by Nate Watters
I arrived at Studio Seven to a nearly empty venue. I soon learned that the club promoter graciously added the show last minute after Prayers for Atheists and Aquifer had a few other tour dates cancel. Needless to say, there was little time for promotion and the show featured a small, intimate crowd, which in my mind was a perfect set up for experiencing some great music.
Aquifer gathered on stage as the small audience huddled in anticipation. Aquifer consists of two vocalists, one sound mixer, a drummer, guitarist, and bassist. These six dudes make up perhaps one of the most musically and lyrically talented group of guys I have ever seen. This was only the second hip hop show I’ve ever been to, but if someone could guarantee me that all hip hop groups put on a show half as good as Aquifer I may be willing to set my usual indie rock bands aside. As I was watching these guys bust out thought-provoking rhymes about real life issues I seriously regretted not telling each and every one of my show-going friends to be there that night, because I knew that telling the story (or writing the words) wouldn’t be enough. One needs to experience Aquifer up close and personal. If you missed them on this tour date then I highly recommend you check them out online and be sure to see them if they ever stop in your town.
Having heard Jared Paul’s solo work a few year’s back I jumped at the chance of reviewing his new band, Prayers for Atheists. PFA is a unique collaboration of old school punk rock and slam poetry hip hop. As Jared put it, “It’s the immergence of counter cultures.” They formed just over a year ago in an effort to put on a benefit show to help fund an attorney for the wrongful allegations against Jared Paul after his arrest at a non-violent protest at the Republican National Convention in 2008. (This is a story in and of itself so I suggest you check out the following link for more info). Since then, Paul has been released, won his trial, and PFA has put on nearly 85 shows around the U.S. With a similar message as Paul’s poetry, PFA sets fourth to preach about political wrongdoings and other social justice themes.
The evening featured songs covering a wide array of topics. They opened up their set with a song that spoke in regards to the corporate takeover of America. Their song titled “Tom Delay” spoke directly to “Racist Ass Lou Dobbs”, Tom Delay, himself, and other politicians with “hidden agendas”. While the song “Psalm for St. Paul” tells the story of Paul getting out of jail and overcoming the legal battles for his unlawful arrest.
“Bike Song” featured strong guitar riffs, solid drumming, and even a hardcore-inspired breakdown by Paul. After seeing the music video on their MySpace page I was happy to hear the live version so solid. You can check out the video here.
I especially enjoyed watching the performance of “Lot’s Wife.” The song opens with a lengthy spoken word segment- which brought a smile to my face as I was taken back to Paul’s earlier solo work. This mix of poetic words and solid beats creates a powerful song, to say the least.
The final song of the evening, which has yet to be recorded (but I hear that a new album is in the works) featured the vocals of PFA guitarist Allen Hague. This punk rock anthem was a perfect end to the night and reflected a sense of responsibility and hope in being proactive in making positive changes happen in this world.
I talked with both bands after the show. They are perhaps the most sincere group of guys I have ever met. They are all passionate about their music and what they stand for. This comes through as much on stage as it does in conversation.
I had the opportunity to speak with Jared Paul in attempts to get a closer look at how Prayers for Atheists came together but the results of our conversation became so much more. Jared took me back several years to the time where he started following political issues, witnessed his first protest, and gained a true passion for social justice.
Seeing these two bands gave me a good sense of relief. Not because the music was so great, because that in itself could knock anyone’s socks off, but because the musical talent displayed was only amplified by the sheer passion and desire to communicate, through instruments and words, the importance of thinking, speaking, and acting on a more culturally, politically, and socially conscience state of mind.
More of Nate’s photos of Prayers for Atheists & Aquifer can be seen here.