Review by Paul Davis
Brooklyn’s rising indie rockers We Are Augustines came to Birmingham as part of a sell-out UK tour, following a lengthy support slot with Band Of Skulls in the US. Tonight promised to be a special occasion, as the band were to perform their debut album in its entirety for the first time.
Support came in the form of My Goodness, a couple of guys from Seattle, Joel Schneider on guitar and vocals and Ethan Jacobsen on drums. Inevitably there are comparisons made to White Stripes and The Black Keys, but along with the blues rock that was expected, My Goodness have a heavier sound than the aforementioned bands, perhaps influenced by the rich musical history of their hometown. The duo arrived on stage slightly later than planned, this worked out well for them as the venue was nearing capacity in anticipation of the headliners. Aside from Joel introducing himself and his band mate, talk was kept to a minimum and My Goodness simply powered through songs from their debut album including the rocking ‘C’mon Doll’. A packed Hare & Hounds witnessed an excellent performance from the support band, hopefully they’ll be back soon.
Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson formed We Are Augustines following the break-up of their previous band Pela. They were joined by British drummer Rob Allen and have released a debut album called Rise Ye Sunken Ships to huge critical acclaim.
The stories that provide the background to their songs have been well documented. McCarthy lost his mother, a drug-addicted schizophrenic during his teens. Later, his brother James, also schizophrenic, took his own life after spending five years in solitary confinement in a California prison. One might expect the songs that have been written based on these experiences to be a little downbeat; on the contrary, the songs of We Are Augustines are full of optimism, positivity and inspiration.
As soon as they opened their set with ‘Philadelphia (City Of Brotherly Love)’ tonight’s crowd were hooked. Despite including a couple of non-album tracks early in the set, ‘Juarez’ keeps up the momentum. ‘Book of James’ documents McCarthy’s struggles with his brother and is performed from the perspective of both brothers.
Comparisons have been made with Gaslight Anthem and like Brian Fallon, Billy McCarthy does have a vocal delivery filled with passion and raw emotion. The band is apparently ‘pretty beat up’ following the Band of Skulls tour, but it doesn’t show.
For the encore Billy returned alone for ‘East Los Angeles’. The most laid-back moment tonight before the band joined him for ‘Headlong Into The Abyss’. The fans at the back shouting out for ‘The Chapel Song’ finally got their wish. Curfew meant this was the end of the show to everyone’s disappointment, although the band promised to stay and have a few drinks with the people who had come out to see them.
Not only were the Birmingham crowd blown away by We Are Augustines this evening, it seemed the feeling was mutual. Next time around, we could be seeing this band in some of our larger venues.