Augustines Crescent Ballroom 2/15/14
You should never mess with a band's encore. If you do, it might lead to some unexpected consequences, like with what happened at the end of last night's Augustines show at the end of last night's Augustines show. As midnight approached at the Crescent Ballroom on Saturday, club music from the adjacent lounge began to penetrate the concert hall, much to the annoyance of the audience and lead singer Billy McCarthy.
He tried in earnest to get the band's encore off to a great start but the thumping bass in the next room kept messing with his head. After he walked off the stage and headed into the Crescent's lounge, the audience looked at each other in bewilderment. Two minutes later, McCarthy returned, approached the microphone, and made an unusual request: He wanted everyone to head to the back. No, not the back of the Crescent's concert hall, but rather, the alley behind the building.
Slowly, the crowd and the staff at the Crescent realized he wasn't kidding. Security quickly gathered to make sure that no one brought alcohol outside, their annoyance over what was transpiring was written all over their faces as they shown their flashlights over everyone.
The orange glow of street lights and the full moon shone over McCarthy and his bandmates Eric Sanderson, who dutifully carried an acoustic guitar in his hand, and drummer Rob Allen, who was reduced to a mallet and his floor tom. They stood on a shaky wooden box while McCarthy, cigarette in hand, told a story of his first visit to Arizona, which involved hippies and hallucinogenic drugs. Then the audience and McCarthy fought back the tears as the band played two honest heartfelt songs.
The band's history warrants this blatant honesty and emotion. Augustines' first album, "Rise Ye Sunken Ships," deals head-on with the death of McCarthy's mother and brother. While this would normally make for a depressing show, somehow the band manages to turn this notion on its head.
"It's a Saturday night," McCarthy shouted as he walked on stage when the show began, "We're going to fuck and run!" Dressed like Rocky Balboa taking Adrian out on a date, hat and all, the band's song choices was anthem after anthem about the East Coast in the style of U2's classic album "The Joshua Tree" as mumbled through Bruce Springsteen. Even one of the ballads, "Philadelphia (City of Brotherly Love)," fed into the band's role as underdogs looking for one chance at the title fight.
At times it seemed like the band to win the audience's love by playing with the hecklers who requested renditions of "Freebird" and Van Halen, but that all changed when the evening's events moved outside. It was difficult for newcomers to tell which songs came from "Rise Ye Sunken Ships" and the threesome's new self-titled album that came out two weeks ago.
Every song is played triumphantly, ready to be played at a sporting event or car ad, but come from a place that isn't commercial at all. This is what makes their show and music extraordinary, and that won't be pulled off at the Crescent anytime soon.
The band that preceded Augustines, the buzz-worthy band Hospitality, started less auspiciously. Their opening song failed to gel because no soundcheck took place before the Brooklyn quartet headed on stage. Lead singer Amber Papini kept giving the man in the sound booth enough hand signals that would leave a shortstop confused.
The band played musical chairs with their instruments throughout the show but the songs, which were reminiscent of indie staples Metric and Vampire Weekend (both Hospitality and Vampire Weekend share a producer). As the set wore on, the set got tighter. The acclaim the band gets on Pitchfork was apparent by end of the show. Rhythmic keyboards and lush sonic landscapes are what the band is known for, but the audience really enjoyed Hospitality's lo-fi classics.
It would've have been hard to determine the direction of the show from Air Waves. This four-piece (also from Brooklyn), had the disco ball lit up and played music that sounded like the last dance at your high school prom, if your prom committee had hired the Pixies without Black Francis and Nico replaced Kim Deal.
It was noise pop that jangled and the charm of their songs nearly stole the show. It's too bad the headliner took the audience outside and made them forget that there were opening bands to begin with.
Last Night: Augustines at the Crescent Ballroom
Personal bias: None. I had no knowledge of any of these bands before I walked in the door. However, all my hipster friends expressed their jealously on Facebook when I mentioned I was seeing Hospitality.
The Crowd: All demographics were surprisingly well represented. First time I've been to a show at the Crescent and didn't feel like a chaperone.
Overheard in the Crowd: "That is a dirty guitar!" This was exclaimed by the man behind me as Seattle two-piece My Goodness took the stage. He was obviously oblivious that there was a band called The Black Keys and these Johnny Come-Latelys were plagiarizing them.
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