A dream that remained resident in the back of many fans’ heads for years, possibly a couple decades, had manifested into a massive reality on Black Friday, November 24th, 2023 as Aqua would make their 7th USA stop to a capacity crowd at Emo’s in Austin, Texas as part of their 2023 world tour. René, Lene, and Søren are back to bring the world the pure pop sounds of their greatest hits to faithful Aqua fans of yesteryear; as well as to a new generation of Eurodance fans. As a massive fan of Eurodance, I had no doubt in my mind that I was in for an incredible live show. There may be those that could call them a nostalgia act or claim that they are capitalizing on the release of the recent Barbie theatrical film; however I would not even call this a comeback because after their incredible performance in downtown Austin, I am sure Aqua never lost it, they never left us, and I believe we will be seeing more of Aqua sooner than later.
Unlike my past trips to Houston and Dallas where I would spend more than 3 hours commuting and staying overnight, the travel to Austin from San Antonio was about an hour and a half with traffic and a stop for dinner and shopping before the show. Ame would accompany me to Austin as she is also a huge fan of Aqua, possibly much more than I as I noticed very quickly that night that many of her musical influences and lyric writing sound seemed inspired by Aqua and other bubblegum pop music like Toy-Box and Captain Jack. We acquired VIP tickets to the concert, which includes meeting with the band and official autographed posters. I want to commend Emo’s Austin for their handling and organization of the VIP process as when we got to the venue about around an hour before doors opened at 7PM, they quickly checked us in through security and smoothly queued us through the line for the meet-and-greet. A common question that has come across my social media and a question I have asked when I acquired VIP tickets was “When does the meet-and-greet take place since there’s no information about it online”. I can only speak to my experience at Emo’s but unless it is specifically stated on the ticketing sites or event pages, I would say it’s safer to show up at least an hour before doors opened like Ame and I did as we were able to meet with Aqua a half an hour before doors opened, buy merchandise, and take point at the very front of the floor. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to a concert but I imagined there would be an incredibly long line queued out of Emo’s and I had the sense to show up much earlier than the doors opening; it was a good thing we did because 6 minutes after doors officially opened, the VIP section was torn down and the band retreated to backstage to prepare for their main-event set. In any case, meeting Aqua in person felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience and although I have faith we will cross paths again, this night was not a night to miss.
Before Aqua would take the stage, we would be introduced to their opening act, Puerto Rican drag queen and RuPaul’s Drag Race Miss Congeniality, Cynthia Lee Fontaine. I failed to tell Ame that Cynthia Lee Fontaine was going to be at the concert and besides the excitement of being at a Aqua concert, Ame incredibly marked out on the fact that we are seeing Cynthia Lee Fontaine live; we probably couldn’t ask for a more perfect concert. Although I am more well known as an electronic dance music fan and I did share that I enjoy alternative rock and metal, I had started tuning into my Latin roots and gained an enjoyment of Reggaeton and other Latin rhythm and blues featuring dembow beats ever since Ame introduced me to Colombian telenovela, “La Reina del Flow” back in 2019. Although I personally was not familiar with Fontaine prior to attending the Aqua concert, Fontaine’s performance was so marvelous that I would forget where I was and I am absolutely sold as a fan for Cynthia Lee Fontaine going forward.
Finally with major anticipation, Aqua would later come out their live intro to ‘Cartoon Heroes‘, a song that would personally hook me to being a lifelong fan of Aqua for over two decades and immediately the massive crowd at Emo’s would sing along. Briefly recalling my journey into becoming an Aqua fan, I first became familiar with Aqua sometime in 1998 when a friend I would just make upon doing a computer install shared his Aqua CD and despite growing up on classic rock and Spanish music, I took special interest on the pop-dance sounds from some of the songs, particularly ‘Barbie Girl‘ as the one that stood out the most. Two years later, I would see the premier of Cartoon Heroes on The Box Music Television channel, which melted my heart both audibly and visually and I was pretty much sold as an Aqua fan; however, I will say around the same time I became a fan of a another Eurodance group called Toy-Box and at the time, Eurodance was significantly popular in America. The Eurodance craze of the late 90s and early 2000s would prime me for my love of electronic dance music later when I would eventually discover South Florida dance station Party 93.1 a year later; as well as for my love of Dance Dance Revolution, which a remix of Cartoon Heroes is featured in DDR Extreme. Of course Ame and I would party to the very familiar sounds of many songs from Aquarium such as ‘Lollipop‘, ‘Doctor Jones‘, ‘Happy Boys & Girls‘, and my personal favorite of the night because it was performed so much like an anthem, ‘My Oh My‘. ‘Playmate To Jesus‘ and ‘Aquarius‘ was also played and between the party pop sounds from the other songs, those two songs would work me warm to melt my heart and have me feeling like giving some big hugs. Of course Barbie Girl would later be played seemingly to signal the concert’s climax, but there was definitely more to sing and more to showcase, which at this point it is better that I would not spoil here. I will say that “Roses Are Red” does get played because during my early HandsUp phase of 2008, I would hear that song played a lot when a former partner would watch anime music videos with that song and further cement my love for Eurodance music along my lifetime; it was very special that Aqua’s very first song that had slipped by my radar previously would further influence my appreciation for Eurodance.
As much as I love to share my experiences at these awesome raves and concerts, I definitely want to encourage my nightkid fans to witness these shows live. Believe me when I say that listening to the album or watching a televised concert does not compare to the experience of being there in person among hundreds or thousands of others sharing the same energy. I went to hundreds of raves and concerts in the last 20 years and this was my first time attending an Aqua concert at all; I honestly can say this was the best concert I ever attended of all my time. As of this writing, Aqua has 11 more stops in America before concluding their 2023 tour, with the next stop being Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland on December 4th, Fillmore in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 5th, House of Blues in Boston, Massachusettes on December 6th, the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City on December 9th, and many more including the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, California on December 20th where they will conclude their tour. As far as where I will be in December, I will pivot to another Eurodance massive as Cascada will return to Houston at RISE Rooftop on December 8th and then I finish off my season of partying when I return to Houston to attend the first ever Galaxy Station Trance Music Festival on December 15th. Let’s continue to support the wonderful dance sounds and may we go on and “Be Happy–Come on, let’s go get it on”!