Aquanett Rocks Hartford

It was 1987 all over again at Up or On The Rocks on Friday night. For about two and a half hours, Aquanett turned Hartford into a 1980s style soddom and gomorrah. Needless to say, for once, I felt like I really belonged.

The cover band from Western Mass plays songs from the heavy hitters of the hairband era like Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Journey, Def Leppard, and many more. Up or on the Rocks was a strange choice of venue for the throwback band. At first I thought the bar had a lot of nerve charging a $10 cover. Upon entering the club, I was downright baffled. The floors were sticky and the décor was just so-so. The stage was almost too small for Aquanett, which has six members, but they managed. Apparently there’s a dance club upstairs, but I didn’t bother going up there. If you’ve seen one trashy Hartford dance floor, you’ve seen ’em all.

What the crowd lacked in size, they more than made up for in enthusiasm. Everyone seemed to know nearly every tune lead singer Anthony Whalen belted out. His vocals are so piercing it’s a shame he wasn’t born two decades earlier. He could be washed up and starring in an embarrassing reality show of his own by now, if only he’d been out of diapers in the ’80s.

The band members get dressed up like glam rock head bangers of an era gone by. Decked out in either Iron Maiden t-shirts or leopard print spandex pants the guys really committed to their characters. Crowd members were dressed a bit more up to date despite being (generally) long in the tooth. I’m sure most of them participated in the coke-fueld debauchery of the 1980s. There didn’t seem to be anyone who smelled bad, which was a nice surprise!

The biggest crowd pleasers came in the form of “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, “Livin’ on a Prayer”, “Don’t Stop Believing” and (surprisingly) “Final Countdown.” Rowdy/really drunk crowd members kept getting close to the stage and giving spirit fingers to whichever guitarist was doing the songs’ solos. Bass player Matthew Macri seemed to get a kick out of that each time.

Aquanett played three blistering sets and after the third set ended around 1:20 a.m., the crowd wanted more. They ended up playing two more songs, “Crazy Train” and “Revolution Calling” by Queensryche. (If Geoff Tate, Queensryche lead singer, ever left the band, Whalen could step in and fans might not know the difference.) After the show, band members were more than gracious, talking to the fans and were appreciative of the ones that congratulated them on a great set.

It was a great night for hair metal and spandex. The crowd left very happy. And drunk. Three salt shakers go to Aquanett, because nothing is saltier than a band named after an ozone-depleting hairspray responsible for Jersey-hair of the worst kind.