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Augustines Live, and Uncut

Every month with 'Uncut' magazine you get a free CD featuring tracks from some of the latest albums, which is a great way to pick up on new artists that you might not get to hear on the radio. Indeed, some of my favourite music of the past few years has come from artists I came across via this route - John Grant, Beach House, Besnard Lakes, Jonathan Wilson, Low, the list goes on.

This is also how I first came across New York band, We are Augustines, who, in their new trimmed-back guise as Augustines, I saw last Wednesday at the Manchester Academy 2.

I had previously seen them at the Academy, back in 2012. Not known as well in those days, they were shunted off to Academy 3, a smaller hall, still in the Students Union building, where the previous week I had seen the much-missed Oldham-based indie-punk band, Here Lies Nugget, along with around 50 other family members, friends and aficionados. What a contrast! Crammed in with around 300 people we were treated to an intense, passionate wall-of-sound as the band showcased their debut album 'Rise Ye Sunken Ships'. 

When I discovered Augustines were due back in Manchester, this time at Academy 2, a ticket was swiftly obtained. It was a lovely, balmy Spring evening, so I decided to walk from my hotel in Ancoats to the University, via a mini-crawl of a couple of the city's finest pubs.

I had a pint of Trooper in the Union Bar, then went upstairs to the venue. A lot of people were milling about, but, not being the tallest of people, I decided to work my way forwards and I ended up on the front row, left of centre, so aside from when the tall guy next to me was moving around to take pictures or embrace his girlfriend, I had a great view of the stage.

The band exploded onto the stage with a barrage of drum beats. They were loud. For what is basically a 3-piece band comprising, Billy McCarthy(guitar and vocals), Eric Sanderson (various instruments, including trombone and dobro) and Rob Allen(drums), they don't half pack a punch. As they treated us to a tour through their 2 albums via great songs like 'Cruel City', 'The Chapel Song', 'Juarez', 'Nothing to Lose But Your Head' and 'Don't You Look Back', I was hard pushed to think of any band that I have seen that puts as much energy into their performance.

But behind the anthemic choruses and uplifting melodies, tragedy and hard times inform the Augustines. McCarthy's brother committed suicide, his mother was a drug addict(who overdosed when he was 19) so he spent years in foster homes in California, then drifted around and off the rails before taking off travelling over the US and as far abroad as Turkey and Kenya(the theme behind 'Walkabout', from the 2nd album). He ultimately settled down in California where having looked up a favourite old teacher, she took him in and he spent some time on her ranch, which turned out to be his salvation.

This background is never far from the surface, raw emotion runs through the Augustines' music. This is also reflected in their high level of interaction with the audience and they seem to thrive on the feedback they get.

They played for about 75 minutes, before going off and coming back on for the encore. Naturally they closed on 'Book of James', their signature song, written about McCarthy's brother. And then something surprising happened. The band climbed off the stage and came down into the audience, and we were treated to a further 10 minutes or so acoustic set, which included upcoming single, 'Weary Eyes'. The crowd loved it, they surrounded the band, snapping images with their phones(though unfortunately not yours truly, due to height restrictions) The band returned to the stage to tumultuous applause and reprised a couple of songs from earlier in the night, before finally disappearing.

Their sound - with influences from the likes of early Springsteen and U2(The Temper Trap, thought a friend) - would be ideally suited to larger venues, though McCarthy laughed off the suggestion put forward by one critic during one of his many exchanges with the audience that they "were making a bid for the stadium quid". Whilst their music would be in a worthy setting, it would be hard to see how they could retain the same level of intimacy and interaction with the crowd. So,if you get the chance to see Augustines soon, go.

The latest album, 'Augustines', is out now.
First album - 'Rise Ye Sunken Ships'

For more information, and upcoming gig details, which includes Manchester Cathedral on 1st December, visit www.weareaugustines.com


And here's a sample, 'Book of James' from 'Rise Ye Sunken Ships':



And here's another, from the latest album, this is an acoustic version of the next single, 'Weary Eyes', due out 8th September:






Enjoy....

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