Augustines at U St Music Hall

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Having become familiar with Augustines after randomly stumbling upon them while perusing through Youtube related videos, I expected a predictable, yet enjoyable indie rock show. What I saw on Wednesday was not that, it was something much, much different.

This was indeed a quite special stop on their US Walkabout tour. It was the first show in which the regular bass player and keyboardist Eric Sanderson was back, after leaving for a family emergency. What a comeback it was.

The lights drew. The band entered from stage left. The steady patter of drums filled the room. Billy McCarthy’s deep, masculine screams and passionate strumming could be heard and felt about every corner of the room in every crack and crevice of the basement venue. We were Headlong Into the Abyss. It wasn’t long before all three band members were riddled with sweat from gallivanting across the stage and passionately throwing together chords. You could see the energy through sweat, tears, and eventually blood that could be seen reflecting off the green and red stage lights. By the time the third song had started, McCarthy had split his lip, another signal of his powerful voice moving away from his physical body.

After the piercing sound of an F-chord began the next song, We Are Augustines, I could see their assistant peeking out from backstage and singing all the lyrics along with them. I guess Augustines is truly a band you can enjoy listening to no matter how many times you have heard the songs. Not soon after, McCarthy hit the tiny stage floor with his guitar, Hendrix-style, flailing so hard he almost knocked the microphone and keyboard over.

A major theme of this show was the band connecting with the audience. At a certain point of the night, the show starting feeling less like a concert and more like a group of friends getting together. Despite both Sanderson and McCarthy handling two instruments, Sanderson constantly switching back and forth from bass to keyboard, they both found their way off the stage and into the crowd at multiple points of the night. Although the drummer, Rob Allen, was forced to be pretty sedentary throughout the night, even he attempted to directly contact the audience with waves and acknowledgements.

The most interesting part of the night, however, came during the encore. When the stage lights were raised, McCarthy and Sanderson were standing on the edge of the stage. After a “you’re killing me, I don’t have a freaking microphone!” they both began a raw version of East Los Angeles. Despite no hardware being use in this stripped down tune, McCarthy’s voice was just as powerful, if not truly echoic.

I thought the night was over when they exited the stage after two encore songs. It was a short, but sweet 90 minute set. The time went by so quickly, and rarely do I want to hear more after a concert has ended. This ending was quite bittersweet. Five minutes later, however, as crowds started to exit back upstairs to the street, the band came out from backstage, equipped with a voice, an acoustic guitar, and bongos, and played a 30 minute set right in the middle of the audience. I had never seen anything like it. It was these unique moments that will have me remember this show for a long time to come. I will be seeing Augustines for sure the next time the roll out to the DMV. However, with a new album in the works and an upcoming tour in the UK, I’m not sure when that will be.

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