London’s Electric Ballroom is famed for it’s musical history, the walls are literally covered in mementos of the glory days. On this particular evening the venue is buzzing with anticipation, the crowd are suitably inebriated and joyous, and suddenly like strangers in the night, three clandestinely dressed men take to the stage. The thunderous applause that erupts signals the start of a set from Brooklyn based band Augustines, they have garnered a loyal and fierce following and quite rightly so; the personal level and depth that goes into the music they create is unmeasured.
Beginning with debut album opener ‘Chapel Song’ from 2011’s ‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships’, the fans that have packed into the room for the first of only two UK dates are instantly given the gratification they so desire. Leading man Billy McCarthy is the perfect persona of the band, capturing the crowd with his charm and at times orchestrating them into being his supporting voice, particularly in second track ‘Augustine’ where the roar of the crowd simply cannot be matched by the amplified PA equipment. After the show Billy took to the bands social media to name the London crowd as “’Mega Mega Thunder Choir’ (ok admittedly not my best nickname, but a nice ring to it)”.
Throughout the evening’s set, the band’s sound, though never truly departing from the Americana-esque rousing call, is given an ever-changing dynamic through the use of multi-instrumentalist Eric Sanderson. With drum samples, synthesisers and piano, though the accompaniment may change, the behemoth that is McCarthy’s heart-on-sleeve performance never falters. The hot and humid day that came before this evening was a perfect lead up to such a set, with the London streets feeling a thousand miles away compared to the world we’re drawn into with McCarthy.
A particular highlight of the evening came in the form of McCarthy remaining on the stage solo, stepping in front of his monitors and performing a track completely unplugged. The unrelenting power of such a performance was only felt once the crowd, who also ensured any nonconformists were swiftly quietened, joined in to create a beautiful harmony that would tame even the hardest of hearts. This is repeated again, though this time drummer Rob Allen also steps up to the plate with a single snare and triggered kick pedal. The ease with which they manage to go from epic, grand and loud to vulnerable, earnest and subdued is awe-inspiring, twin this with a crowd of dedicated listeners and what you have is a perfect match. McCarthy has the ability to not just sing the songs, but he also presents the lyrics, showing us exactly what they mean to him, completely and utterly opening himself up and proving this isn’t just a job, it’s a way of life for him and the band.
The connection McCarthy and co forms with the crowd is the most important aspect of an Augustines live show. From the aforementioned unplugged performance to the crowd banter, ranging from “I’ve got a question for London Town – are we alive?! Let’s fuck shit up” to them describing touring with Noel Gallagher days before “Noel Gallagher is a massive Arsenal fan” (For those who don’t know – he isn’t. At all.). From the moment they stepped onto the stage the crowd were there’s and they were the crowds. They truly encapsulate the spirit of a travelling band, with tales and songs to befit any mood, they can rouse even the most darkest of rooms, be it a reasonable sized venue in London or a back street bar, Augustines are a sight to behold. Let’s hope they grace our shores again very soon.
This Augustines article was written by Steven Loftin, a GIGsoup contributor. Lead photo by manukberlin