AUGUSTINES- The Empire, Belfast (Nov 26, 2014)

Augustines

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  The Empire, Belfast

A review by Erica Andreozzi  (Nov 26, 2014)

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 I had been eagerly anticipating this gig for several months now (see my previous review of them), especially considering that it would be Augustines‘ first headline show in Belfast (very cool to be a part of this), as well as the first one for my friend Laura. With this night marking my fifth Augustines‘ gig, I was excited to experience the magic all over again with those seeing it LIVE for the FIRST TIME (my god). As I recall Todd Howe (director of RISE: Story of Augustines) mentioning in the film’s trailer, “If you haven’t seen these guys live, then you have NO CLUE what we are talking about.” Belfast soon became aware of this fact by the end of the night. 🙂

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At the start of the show, the fans stood back a few feet from the stage, and I was a bit taken back by this “gap” that never before existed in previous Augustine gigs I’ve attended. All in all, it took about 4-5 songs (Headlong Into the Abyss, Chapel Song, Augustines, Ballad of a Patient Man, Juarez) for the flip to switch in the Belfast crowd, but once that cold front warmed up, damn was it hot! Most of the people in the audience were only just seeing Augustines for the first time, and I can’t tell you how many people I saw completely captivated by the end. I girl even grabbed my in the bathroom after the show to say so! 
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Within those first few songs, Ballad of a Patient man was a distinct highlight for me, as I had only just discovered this gem back in August and had never yet seen it live. The blood verse reminds me alot of my blog (beatsthatsetmypulse.wordpress.com), and so there is an extra-special sentiment and connection to the lyrics:

“Lift your tired heart now darling
Lift it up into the air
And I will float to you in this crowded room    (slayed)
And whisper in your ears
..
As long as my heart keeps pumping blood..pumping blood..pumping blood
BLOOD, BLOOD BLOOD, BLOOD.”

As soon as my ears began to recognize the distinctive intro “Lift your tired..”, I LAUNCHED UP INTO THE AIR like a ROCKET. Haha! It launched me into my “own little world,” said my friend Laura who was standing next to me in slight bewilderment. This one was meant to have the heart “keep pumping blood,” even during those time when the pulse may be weak. Love…love…LOVE!

Next up was Philadelphia, One of my favorites from Augustines‘ first album, Rise Ye Sunken Ships (and it’s not just cause I’m from Philly). I love the live rendition of this one, with Eric’s piano ballad opening and closing the passageway to the “City of Brotherly Love.” I also enjoy watching as Billy eagerly challenges his vocals with this one, piping out vibratos with his “Oooo-ooo’s” before cauterizing our wounds: “Soak your scars in the ocean…”  I can’t help smile ear-to-ear when Billy hugs Eric at the end. So much love with this band. It’s utterly contagious. On a side note, we all had absolutely NO CLUE what Billy was up to with that fire extinguisher, haha.

 After embracing the song that reminds me of my dirt and roots (yes, I’m talking about PHILLY), Billy makes a Birthday toast to John Panos, the siiiiick, sassy trumpet player from The Bronx. Even more, he’s an off-the-boat Greek American from NYC, and what better way for the band to shower him with love than to douse him in some Ouzo. They fill him a glass (more than half-full) of his country’s liquid courage, and Billy joins him, as if to not leave a man hanging. Billy then takes the initiative to drink to his own heritage, busting out the Jameson whisky and having to swig back more than intended due to the peer pressure of the Irish (…when it comes to drinking, they are surely hard to hang with). The crowd sings John a HAPPY BIRTHDAY, and we all wait in eager anticiaption as John and Billy duel back-and-forth (trumpet vs. guitar) as part of the intro to Strange Days, which Billy describes as a “dance song!” I absolutely LOVED this improvised “horny for some horn” (Billy’s words!) beginning, and was even a bit tempted to fire up Panos a bit as the fellow Italian American from Philly (would still have a chance in Dublin, haha). By the end of this song, EVERYONE was DANCING, just as Billy said the would.  🙂
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After all that dancing, it was time for a Walkabout. This song had struck a particular deep chord in me the first time I heard it– a chord that would continue to resonate as I continued on with my international work experience abroad in London. At one point during this two-year walkabout, I had traveled a span of 17 countries in 15 months, and I become gripped with emotion EVERY TIME during the confessional intro: “I’ve lost my way, so bad.” I once WAS lost, but now I am found. This song has been a torch guiding my path to clarity, and it will continue to walkabout in my mind, again and again. ❤

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Walkabout was followed by a DOUBLE-WHAMMY of the high-intensity, upbeat anthems, Nothing to Lose But Your Head and Cruel City, to close Augustine’s standard set. BUT, the fans were not ready to go home yet, and their incessant clapping an howling had Augustines returning back on stage for long, generous encore. Billy and Eric immediately took this opportunity to perform The Avenue while standing on top of the bar, looking out onto the crowd.

I love the one fan who kept egging Billy on with his encouraging “Sing it!” and “Who-hoo!” banter. You always need a bit of a firecracker to kick the heat up a notch! Haha.

Billy pours out his heart and soul as he wails, Oh you just can’t see me yet…you still don’t know me after all this time.”  (SLAYED)

“I wanna love ya or leave ya
You ain’t my home
Just swinging at nothin on the avenue…Again.
(Eric stars ferociously stomping his heels on the bar)

You haven’t seen all the good inside
Me yet I know
Maybe I should see that in myself again…
(I shouted horny cause I saw Panos raising his horny on stage, and it was a running joke of the night)

See that in myself and GO!”

Then, Billy becomes so moved by the Belfast choir’s “Ooo–Ooo-Ooo’s” that he drops his beer on the bar, and with a dropped-jaw, quickly hugs Eric out of disbelief (and slight consolation, haha). x

Billy then shouts, “Now I gotta try and figure out a way to get the hell off this thing” (referring to the bar), and the crowd can’t help but embrace his genuine, not-afraid-to-be-himself, cool character. He then extends a big thank you their their bus driver, Lee, who’s been their “captain” this entire UK/European tour. Love.

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 Billy and Eric then return back on stage for the MVPs (most valuable players) –Now You Are Free and Book of James– whose impact have been vital to the eminent success of Augustines and Rise Ye Sunken Ships, respectively. Both have rocked me in ways that I never knew rock music could- “thoughtful, intelligent rock music,” that is.

After these hair-raising, heart-pumpers, Billy and Eric leap off-stage to once again play songs IN the crowd, WITH the crowd. THIS is the very essence of what distinguishes Augustines from most typical bands…the all-inclusive, intimate sing-a-longs that leave us feeling liberated and loved.

Billy and Eric locked eyes the entire first chorus of Weary Eyes, as if they were reliving those never ending struggles that kept them in the dark for so long. I teared up watching this “I can’t believe we made it” unfold in front of me. As an athlete (softball/soccer/lacrosse) growing up, the longest I span I had ever had with another teammate was probably around 5-6 years. I can’t IMAGINE the depth and intensity of Billy and Eric’s 12-year, “struggle-became-our-identity” kind of bondage that had them holding on for dear life in order to fight for what they were born to do: heal people with their music. Serious emotion…(heart BEATING like a hammer!)

This verse always gets those goosebumps crawling:

“Do you remember that song
When the bar sang along and we stumbled home
Weary eyes?
We laid on the roof, drank wine and we proved
WE CAN FIX OURSELVES!” (carotids bulging as I shout along!)

Then, without warning, the one-and-only John Panos marches into the crowd and churns out even more chills with his powerful, playful trumpet. The omnipotent, holy-esque “Oh-Oh-Oh-OH-Oh-Ohs” that follow had the whole crowd praying for more.

Billy gave the crowd a few options for what to play next, including the option TO DANCE. He quickly mentions the song Pressure Drop by Toots and the Mayta, and a 70-year-old (ballpark) Silver Fox squeals like a boy on Christmas morning. Billy of course could not let this jubilant man done, and quickly gives Eric the cue for the ultimate pressure drop.

I too joined that man in a state of utter jubilation, and could NOT STOP LAUGHING LIKE A HYENA (apologizes to those around me), especially when John Panos TRUMPS in with his trumpet as Billy yells, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

This song was SO MAGICAL on SO MANY LEVELS; It was so hilarious and to watch Eric, Billy, and John dancing all goofy right alongside me, while at the same time watch Rob beating that box drum like melodic madman. I had never seen this one before, and MAN did it MAKE MY PRESSURE DROP.

Following this pressure drop was a poignant, emotional rendition of East Los Angeles (“a song about hotel rooms and car parks”) from the balcony above, where coincidentally that Silver Fox was sitting…(maybe that’s why he chose to post up there!)…I was amazed to see how many fans around me knew all the lyrics.

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With the Belfast crowd clearly wide awake and begging for more, Billy, Eric, Rob, and John got everyone huddled around for an intimate New Drink for the Old Drunk lullaby, which Billy introduces as a “drinking song,” and then exclaims, “Wait a sec! This feels a bit..(weird)…You are my family!…I was just up there!”

He clearly wanted the crowd to not be shy and to continue to huddle around as they kicked off this song acoustic-style before Billy hands ME his guitar (DYING) and they finish it off full volume and full blast on stage with everyone ARM-IN-ARM, jumping UP and DOWN.

I was SO STOKED to have been able to say hi to them all after (haha Billy called me “Tiger”) and meet their awesome, talented cameraman, Brendon. Memories to last a lifetime. I feel so blessed and thankful fir if all. Thank gosh it was Thanksgiving the next day. Cheers to ROUND TWO in Dublin with my fellow American Brooklyn Boys. I’m glad to see that they were sporting the Irish bling that I got for them! I figured it might bring them some extra Lucky Charms for the Dublin gig. Plus, the I thought the Leprechaun hat would be an ideal replacement to Billy’s standard fedora. 😛

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I am as serious as a heart attack when I say that their music has been one of my only constants when my world was thrown many variables. It’s been a comforting haven to find shelter and clarity, and it’s adopted me into a “family” of fans who feel the same way. The intense loyalty and devotion from this Augustines’ family is one that I have never before witnessed, and I see TONS of live music. It’s as if we all give each other “virtual hugs” with each new Facebook/twitter post, as only WE can understand the life-changing, emotional embrace of every Augustines‘ gig. Can’t wait for the REAL hugs at the Brighton and London gigs next week!  

 

Augustines’ Birthday Cheer at Green Man!

Augustines’ BIRTHDAY CHEER at Green Man Festival in Wales

(Aug 15, 2014)

A review by Erica Andreozzi

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 I am STILL on CLOUD NINE from last weekend’s Green Man Festival in South Wales. This was my favorite UK festival of last year, so it was only fitting that it would be my last and favorite (STILL) UK festival of 2014. It might even be my last Green Man for a while, as I’ll be leaving the UK in a few months, but as least I ended it full circle. Set in the heart of the idyllic Brecon Beacons, the environment, scenery, band selection, people, and just overall vibe is really something special. PLUS, last but not least…(I thank the Green Man gods for this!), Augustines were added to the festival lineup with short notice, making this festival EVEN MORE highly anticipated than ever before. NOT ONLY THAT, but the night that Augustines were scheduled to play the Mountain Stage (pics below), was the night of both Billy’s birthday and the birthday of his brother James (who inspired the emotive track, Book of James). Grab a helmet cause there’s more! Billy and James’ double-wammy birthday is further compounded by Eric’s birthday at the strike of midnight. CRAZY ODDS. I mean, it wasn’t already enough that I was seeing Augustines in THEIR MONTH (their August birthdays inspired the name), I was seeing them at THE PINNACLE (pretty much) of THEIR MONTH. (one lucky lil’ lady) Seeing them at their summit, IN FRONT OF a summit (yes, that beautiful mountain behind the stage that everyone’s refers to as “Sugarloaf”), was just way too surreal. So many good vibes going on, so much beauty brewing around us…it was definitely one of those “pinch me” moments where I had to convince myself that YES, this was all really happening. AND, to top it off, the act preceding Augustines just happened to be Sun Kil Moon (aka Mark Kozlek), the artist that I had been listening to for weeks on end (that Benji album is ACE) and anxiously waiting to see live for the first time. I distinctly remember both Billy and Rob poking their heads out from behind the stage curtain during Mark’s performance of The Film the Song Remains the Same (one of my favorites), and I couldn’t help smile at their eager eyes and beaming grins. They were more than ready to get on stage and do what they DO BEST: Entertain crowds with stadium-size sound that somehow maintains an intimacy/inclusiveness of a small room. Unlike most bands, they SHARE THE STAGE and are genuinely excited by fans dancing and singing their songs along WITH THEM. They feed off that energy and participation, making it one big joyous sing-a-long for everyone. WE ALL WIN. 🙂

When the clocked struck 8 pm for Augustines’ set to start, the tenacious trifecta (Billy, Eric, Rob) came running out on stage like gazelles, ready to celebrate Green Man AND THEIR BIRTHDAYS with the 10,000+ grateful Green Man audience. Billy introduces the band and then shouts into the microphone: “It’s my birthday!” This immediately prompted the entire crowd to sing him ‘Happy Birthday’ while he stood up on stage grinning ear-to-ear. If this was the first time you were seeing Augustines (hard to believe from my end), you would immediately be drawn to the deep appreciation that they have for their fans. Billy was BEAMING, as if he could hear every single fan’s individual birthday cheer like it was coming from his best friend. Later on, he posted this Facebook message alongside a photo of him standing up in the sea of people: “Wales my eternal thanks. Bloodied knees and hoarse voice and an unbelievable joy in my heart. Best birthday ever…that’s me in the middle having the time of my life…

Although their set seemed way too short to me (especially in comparison to their usual 2+ hr set), they served up a handful of hearty sing-a-longs, kicking off with Nothing to Lose but Your Head and soon following with Cruel City (it was so cool to be in front of Eric and watch him do the beats for this one). They also played Chapel Song and Headlong into the Abyss, both of which got the crowed roaring and all warmed them up on this crisp, chilly night. They then freed everyone of all their ghosts with the always compelling Now You are Free before rounding out the set. BUT BILLY, chock full of surprises, SURPRISED US ALL with an impressive BIRTHDAY DANCE (below), shouting: “I was getting fucking worried you guys were sleeping the past two hours!…”  HELLS NO. Never.

Billy’s Birthday Dance:

Soon after the birthday dance, I heard a girl behind be scream a request of Philadelphia, and although I’m from ‘the City of Brotherly Love’ and do love that song, I quickly  screamed Book of James because I knew it was coming down to the wire and I REALLY WANTED to hear my favorite. They usually save this heavy hitter for the end, so I had a feeling it was coming anyways. These lyrics forever resonate in my mind: “Here lies, my green eyes, rolled back in my head, but their ALIVE.” (so good) I actually thought they would close out on Book of James, but they decided to give us one more hit. Home run. For this one, Rob ditches his drums and comes close to the front of the stage to be apart of the acoustic encore that will forever be etched in our memory. Billy also ditches guitar, leaving Eric the one to hold down the fort and lead the rhythm for The Avenue. This is when Eric’s smile was EAR-TO-EAR; he was just STARING OUT at the cheerful crowd of 10,000+ with that look of, “YES, we’ve finally made it. They FINALLY GET IT.” Yes, we certainly do, and we truly hope Augustines continue to RISE UP as a band and made beautiful music that touches hearts every day. For the encore of The Avenue, Billy asks the crowd to be a ‘Green Man Choir’ and sing along with “oooo’s” during the chorus, stating: “It only works when everybody does it.” Before he knew it, the entire Green man choir was full force, leaving him “impressed” and ready to end his birthday on a verse that celebrates the wonderful human being that he is:

“Yeah, haven’t seen all the good inside me yet, I know
Maybe I should see that in myself again
See that in myself and go.”       🙂

The Avenue:

After the show, I was lucky enough to catch (and finally meet!) Rob and give him a pen-and-ink sketch that a women named Pauline Williams drew of Augustines on-the-spot during their set — although she said she had a hard drawing it because standing behind me…(I do get a tad rowdy). I initially saw her drawing sketches for other bands earlier that day and mentioned that she should return that night for the Augustines set. Not only did I want her to see the band, but I knew they would really appreciate her unique sketch. I got to TONS of gigs, but I never ONCE saw someone do what she does…there are always load of photographers, but never free-sketch artists. Check out the rest of her collection: http://www.paulinewilliamsart.com/collections/pen-ink

I would have been nice to wish Billy and Eric a happy birthday in person, but Rob said the band was off to Germany that night for another festival. At least we can rest assured from their Facebook post that this year’s birthday would always hold a special place in their hearts: “…such an amazing experience for us. The crowd spontaneously sang Happy Birthday to us under the night sky. Its hard to describe to you how big our smiles were. Special thanks to Wales, and cheers to all of you. Best birthday ever.” -Bill, Eric, and Rob

If you want to read more about Augustines, I posted a piece on them just last week. It might be the greatest review I ever write: https://beatsthatsetmypulse.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/augustines-to-rise-up-from-some-dirty-ashes/

Check out the kickstarter project that Big Vulture productions is running to support a film (“RISE“) documenting the band’s incredible story: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1638587871/rise-the-story-of-augustines

 

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PICTURES:

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pauline's free sketch

Sketch of Augustines drawn on-to-spot by the talented Pauline Williams