Augustines: “To RISE UP from some dirty ashes…”

Augustines

  “To RISE UP from some dirty ashes…”

A review by Erica Andreozzi  (Aug 13, 2014)

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“It’s not how slow you go, it’s that you never stop.”
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in RISING every time we fall.”
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” 

–Confucius (500 BC)

 These simple truths, voiced thousands of years ago by a great Chinese philosopher, remain the vein of Augustines existence and the “duende” that continue to invigorate their diehard fans (who fly from other countries to see them). “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without” (also Confucius), and when it comes to Augustines music, this pleasure percolates the crowd like the sweat seeping through every pore on our body. Sounds intense, and IT IS. Their live shows strip you bare, break you down, and build you back again, as if some sort of REBIRTH. Those that have never seen Augustines live can’t comprehend the sort of exhaustive catharsis and resurrection that accompanies their set. Each song will awake the soul and revitalize the heart, and by the end, you will feel like you are on the verge of a heart attack (at least I do). Not only is this because my carotids have been bulging from my neck from belting out the chorus so loud, but because my heart fills up like a balloon that is about to burst. This American Beauty quote describes it perfectly: “It’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain, and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.” Augustines have that same effect. 

Billy McCarthy, the beating heart of Augustines, perpetuates an endless cascade of positivity EVERY SINGLE SHOW, leaving fans feeling loved, understood, and validated. “And all you want is something to believe in… just for a little bit. And we’re here tonight because of music. And music’s a funny thing because you can’t fucking own it. It doesn’t exist. It’s just matter. You can’t hold onto it. It’s a moment. This is your moment with music. And we’re sharing this moment with you right now through our music and we really appreciate it. We all need something to believe in and I want to tell you something tonight: at the end of this tour, I’ve been waiting my whole fucking life for this,” says Billy at the end of their gig in Birmingham (Feb 2014). Spoken like a true genius –one with the ability to creatively use your intellect—Billy knows exactly how to heal every wounded person in the audience. Armed with upbeat rhythms and uplifting lyrics (“soak your scars in the ocean”), he delivers an intoxicating dose of musical medicine with healing powers that are beyond belief. Music, ‘mere vibrations through the air,’ can somehow unite people all across the globe– people of different language, race, and background. Music is a way to explain things where there are no words, and the mood it elicits becomes common denominators for those ‘mere vibrations’– vibrations that chill our bones, strike chords in our soul, and resonate mantras in our minds. When it comes to Augustines, that mantra is to RISE. To “soak your scars in the ocean… to put away all our sobs…to let go all of your ghosts…to RISE up from some dirty ashes.”

I am always conscious of the notion that “everyone’s got a story to tell,” but the story of Augustines (Billy McCarthy, Eric Sanderson, Rob Allen) is something short of a MIRACLE— how they rose up from their ashes (e.g. death, neglect, deceit) and “overcame massive adversity & personal tragedy to become the most critically acclaimed indie band in the world.” Just last week, Big Vulture Productions announced a kickstarter campaign to fund a DOCUMENTARY FILM (called “RISE”) on this miracle of a story behind Augustines: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1638587871/rise-the-story-of-augustines (donate!)

If you do ANYTHING SENSIBLE this August (the month of Augustines!), it would be to donate to this incredibly rewarding cause and to help their story get told. Just as the great Maya Angelou once proclaimed, There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you,” and I whole-heartedly agree. She also said, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” I cannot think of a band that exemplifies this MORE so than Augustines, and SHARING THEIR STORY WITH THE WORLD has the potential to EMPOWER THE MASSES and to help people RISE UP from devastating tragedy. Tod Howe, the direct of “RISE,” states: It is our intention that RISE transcends both music and band to stand on it’s own as a truly compelling film…To me, what makes this film so unique are the band members. The fact that they have been through so much in their history makes the success they now have inspirational on another level altogether.” If we truly believe that life is an echo, it makes sense that the generosity Augustines has sent out to fans for years is finally coming back to them. Let’s fortify this echo by donating to this film.

While my fervid film fever for this band might have you thinking that I am part of the creative collective behind “RISE,” don’t be fooled. Nope. I am just DIE-HARD fan (lil’ lady, BIG HEART) that feels utterly compelled to give MY EVERYTHING to making sure the music and story of Augustines is heard around the world. Although I am a MAD SCIENTIST by day (Biomedical Engineering: BS, PhD), I am a MUSIC JUNKIE by night that’s been gripped by the power of music and has felt its ability to heal. With a day job that encourages me to think analytically (aka “overanalyze”) and to use equations/formulas to study uncertainty and solve scientific problems, it’s nice to let my mind escape at night. Live music is indeed my escapism, and it has let my mind fly away to wonderful places when physical escape was not possible. Unlike science, there are no “formulas” for creating the “perfect song,” and I LOVE THAT. There are endless possibilities to crafting combination of keys, chords, rhythms, but none of which are “right” or “wrong.” Music is formless power whose only measure of its existence is the heightened sensation it provokes. Some songs resonate more with us during moments in our lives, and our favorite song one month might not be so the next. As with karma, I truly do believe that different music comes in and out of our lives at certain times FOR A REASON; the reason for Augustines coming back into my life (new album/tour) when it did was obvious: to RISE.

When I encounter life-changing music like Augustines, I am overwhelmed by such strong impulse to share it. Sharing music with others has always given me this insatiable high, this sense of euphoria that’s almost indescribable to those who aren’t music junkies like myself. Music is my drug, and I am definitely an addict– it’s my fuel when energy levels are low, and it’s my meditation when thoughts need reorganization; It’s my rhythmical road map to peace of mind and self discovery, my passport to the heart and soul; It’s my appetite for life. After moving to London and quickly averaging 2-3 shows a week, I started to joke that I might need an “intervention” from all of this live music. But then I realized that this would be like taking away my oxygen…my very life force. While I really do enjoy my day job as a scientist, this job does come with certain pressures and responsibilities that can sometimes overwhelm me to the point of paralysis; And that’s when music steps in. “Keep your head up kid, I know you can swim, But ya gotta move your legs.” YES. Thank you for reminding me, Billy. Not only does music keep me swimming in the face of adversity, but it also gives life a certain rhythm that keeps me dancing. In honor of the legendary actor, comic, BRIGHT SOUL that we lost yesterday—Robin Williams—I recall his memorable line from a scene in Dead Poet’s Society: “We read and write poetry because we are part of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion…Medicine, law, business, engineering…these are all noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life…But poetry (MUSIC), beauty, romance, love …These are what we STAY ALIVE FOR.” Eerie enough, about an hour before Robin William’s suicide death was announced to the public, Billy had posted on facebook that it was the 5 year death anniversary of his brother James, who also happened to die from suicide. HEAVY HEART. Although a person may look happy, you sometimes have to look past their smile and see how much pain they may be in. We all need to start looking out for one another more, and starting show that we care.  ❤

No matter how transient or unpredictable life gets, some music will ALWAYS remain a CONSTANT, an extension of something familiar (people, places, things). That is how I –and others– feel about Augustines. Their music is safe territory for people to find their voice, express themselves, and heal their wounds inside and out. It is a mainline to Billy’s heart and a conduit for people to connect with his experience in a very real and very personal way. Earnest Hemingway once said that a person’s virtue” (what makes them great) is also “what makes them more vulnerable” and “they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.” It’s this very vulnerability that make us fans able to connect with Billy in ways that most other frontman would never know. I’m not sure if Billy’s watched Brene’ Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability (I hope he has!), but it’s an excellent reminder that “shame is the fear of disconnection” and that, no matter the past, we must “fully embrace vulnerability in order to make connection happen.” THIS is why the music of Augustines is SO powerful, and why Billy has received fan letters from people proclaiming that their music has cured grief and prevented suicide. There are not many bands whose emotions are brimming so close to the surface (ready to boil over) that you can nearly taste their pain. Despite everything that makes us fragile humans, Augustines reminds us that DREAMS DO COME TRUE. Their music is the very vessel that carries people forward through hardship and helps them harness the strength to “rise ye (own) sunken ship.”

It was not until I first saw Augustines at The Lexington (150 capacity) in London for an impromptu pre-album release show (selling out in 4 min), that I finally understood what it feels like to RISE, Augustines’ style. I remember that night so clearly because it was such a rat race to get to the venue and I almost did not make it. After an exhausting 12+ hr day (no food/drink) of injecting/imaging mice as the mad scientist, the music junkie kicked into full gear and I was off in a mad dash to arrive on time. Profusely dripping with sweat as a entered the door, I heard Billy’s voice upstairs realized that they had ALREADY STARTED. With panic mode soon kicking in, I became flooded with adrenaline and somehow (it’s sill all a bit hazy to me), I dodged through the crowd like a dark phantom in the night and was able to glide along the perimeter walls before magician-ing myself to the front. This scrappy, lil’ Italian ain’t no rookie, and although I normally wouldn’t be so rude, it was AUGUSTINES, and I had a HARD DAY. The fact that I even MADE IT there was shocking, so I wasn’t about to TWINKLE TOE in. If I got there, I was GETTING TO THE FRONT. And a sweet spot at the left corner of the stage (facing front) is where I landed. (like A BOSS) 😛

I thank EVERY HIGHER POWER out there, because that show was one of the most blistering, raw, cathartic performances from a rock group that I HAD EVER SEEN. (I see tons of bands). Seriously UNREAL on SO MANY LEVELS. Although I missed Augustines‘ opening song of Headlong into the Abyss–which is a real shamed because I love shouting along the chorus (“Call the police, go ahead call your shrink…Call whoever you want but I won’t stop the car…Call the police, go ahead call your priest…Call whoever you want, call in the National Guard”)–I was there for the full rundown of Chapel Song, one of my favorites from their debut album, ‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships.’ Rob’s opening drums remind me of a racing heart beat, while Eric’s vacillating chords remind me of an apprehensive mind– both of which are very fitting for a song about a man standing indecisive on his wedding day:

“Well there goes my girl
Into the chapel
Now she’s walking down the aisle
And it feels just like a mile
And I shake shake shake like a leaf
And I’m lyin’ lyin’ lyin’ through my teeth.”

Sung out with desperation and inner rebellion, Billy’s brutally honest vocals will have you feeling his every inch of emotion. The same goes for the line in Augustine when he pleads, “Keep your head up kid, I know you can swim, But ya gotta move your legs” (love the trailing guitar part), and when he shouts (my personal favorite), “New York City can go to hell!” I am always wondering if the “kid” he sings about is himself; if so, then Juarez helps explain why it might not be so easy to keep his head up: “Lord I see red…and I think my Daddy’s dead…Lord I see red and I’m prayin on my bed…I got a drunk for a mother…Got a saint for a brother.” Also early in the lineup that night was Cruel City, one of the first new songs delivered to the audience that night. This one was devoted to NYC, and Billy describes the meaning behind its name: “We did 255 shows over 23 countries for the last record, and I would come back beaten to a pulp…and I would get back to New York and there would be all these honking horns, and ‘Fuck You Buddy’, it was all really rough. I couldn’t relax; I would walk down the street feeling tense.” Although you might expect this tension to transpire into a harsh, angry song, it’s quite the opposite. Cruel City feels more upbeat than the others on the new album, and it has a distinct levity to it – a lightheartedness that can be attributed the influence of West African rythyms. Eric learned many new styles after studying music in Ghana, and the bouncy beats he brought back definitely give Cruel City its resilience: “Hey, I miss your skin…I still reach for you in the dark.”

As Billy looks out the crowd with his “weary” green eyes (although they did not play Weary Eyes that night), you can’t help feel compassion for him in a real and personal way. This ‘my heart feels your heart’ compassion is most evident during You Got Nothing to Lose But Your Head when he shouts at the top of his lungs: “Have you ever felt lonely?…Like your hollow heart is hanging in the wind…Your black lungs can’t breath…You got nothing to lose but your head.” But, the verse that really had my heart sinking to the pit of my stomach and on the verge of tears is:

“Have you ever lost someone,
Screamed Holy Mary down the hall
Or cried against the steering wheel,
and hated every mirror you ever saw.
Have you reached out in a cold cold night,
Waved goodbye into headlights,
Thought you were wrong your whole life,     (slayed)
The day you found true love…” 

That first line about losing someone really hits home, as my best friend lost her father just over a year ago to cancer (horrible). But, instead of using his emotional carnage to harness sympathy, Billy uses it as a sort of SOS to rescue those still consumed by grief. “This song is about “the realization that now is the time. Gone are the days of wandering around waiting for that right time. There is no right time, so go — ya got nothing to lose but your head,” he says. It’s clear that he’s convinced the entire audience of this when he has them all belting out the last chorus: “HEY! You gotta get me outta here…Running circles in my brain.” Billy got so carried away that he actually LOST HIS HEAD and plummeted into the drums during the closing of the song. Funny thing was, Rob CONTINUED TO PLAY the symbols over Billy’s head to end the song, and immediately after –once climbing out the drum mess— Billy says to the crowd all nonchalantly, “Well THAT was a bit unnecessary…” HAHA. We all enjoyed the academy award winning performance. x

Another song where we feel compassion for Billy is in Hold On To Anything, when he holds up his hand ups as if being resurrected and wails: “Holes in my hands, can’t hold onto anyone…Can’t hold onto anyone…Soooo, call you friends…Cause I can’t hold onto anyone….hands full of holes.” Although the lyrics are a bit oppressive, the triumphant trombone of Al Hardiman keeps us clinging on, and we can’t NOT join Billy when he roars “YEEE–EEAH!” throughout. Al Hardiman is not a full-time Augustines member, but he joins them on some of their tours and it was a real treat to have him along that night at the Lexington. “He’s a very talented artist who we have a strong connection with,” explains Eric. “He’ll play trombone and sing, and play keyboards as well. We decided, with the nature of the music that we made on this record, that we wanted someone else to come out for the journey with us, because the walkabout hasn’t stopped, now that we’re learning to play these songs live. So as we go out into America and Europe and the rest of the world, this idea of a walkabout, of finding yourself, is going to carry on, and Al’s going to be joining us, for however long it lasts.” Not only did Al play trombone for some of the songs, but he also played cello for Philadelphia (City of Brotherly Love), a song whose very lyrics serve as the key mission statement for the band: “To RISE up from some dirty ashes.” Eric’s opening piano instantly dissipated any heaviness I was carrying around with me that day, and I felt a thousand times lighter as I joined Billy in singing:

“It’s the same people
Just different faces
All lost in a fog
And we could disappear just as easy
And I’m already gone
To rise up from some dirty ashes,      (YES))
To put away all our sobs
And now we’re choking on the years
But this is not your fault…
It’s the city of brotherly love…” 

Having been born in West Philadelphia and raised just outside, I very much commiserate with other’s who’ve faced the austerity/turmoil of this rough city. Although I could never move back after moving to the West Coast (I’ve surely left my heart in San Francisco), I do appreciate where I came from, the dirt and the roots. Philly’s cultivated in me a natural scrappiness/toughness that is unparalleled to many (we don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and we often ‘hustle’ to get our way), and so I thoroughly enjoyed belting out “Soak your scars in the ocean…YEEE-AH!’ with the rest of the crowd. Chills all over my body for this one, cause you know the scars that Billy refers to RUN DEEP. And to have this song bleed even more emotion with Al’s stunning cello howling in the background?…DEAR GOD.

But for me, the most moving moment in the show –one the evoked the strongest visceral sense of sincerity–was when Billy described his disbelief of the show’s record 4-min sellout: “Four minutes to walk to the subway that used to take me to my last shitty job, two and a half to three years ago; Four minutes to tie the boots that would take me to that subway; Four minutes to queue for coffee before starting the job I had before Augustines…and…FOUR MINUTES TO SELL OUT THIS ONE OFF UK GIG.” (heart racing as if it might come through my chest!) This same thread of appreciation and devotion reminded me of Billy’s comment in an previous interview: “I think that art gets really good when you need to do it…I could drive a truck again, and I’d survive, but my soul wouldn’t survive. I need this music for my soul to make sense.” GOD I love this frontman and THIS BAND. Billy’s voice and lyrics are like a lifeline to the heart, and his live performances are concrete evidence of this NEED for music. He recently elaborated: “Music, some people enjoy it…blah blah…but something interesting happens when you need it…I NEED IT…I need music…music has made me become a better person…I just kept playing guitar and it gave me focus…I couldn’t afford a therapist, and my guitar and my heart and my band mates, it’s allowed me to not completely destroyed by some of the things that happened.”

And with survival often being the mother of invention, this need for music sparked the very FLAME that would become Augustines—who rose from the ashes of Billy and Eric’s previous group, Pela (which broke up in 2009). Billy and Eric were joined by British drummer, Rob Allen, and together they grew immensely as they ignited the ashes of Pela to a new success. Eric says, “As individuals, we hit rock bottom after our dream of becoming musicians evaporated with Pela’s demise. We started drinking the pain away and gave up on mostly everything.” But, they DIDN’T GIVE UP. Using Pela’s defeat as sort of a fresh stimulus to create their debut alum, ‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships.’ The very crux of that album was the loss/longing that deteriorated Billy as he suffered the death of his brother (James) to suicide and his mother (a schizophrenic) to a drug overdose.

“During that record (Rise Ye Sunken Ships),” Eric explains, “we spoke openly about a deeply personal time period in our lives, especially Billy’s.” Eric, Rob, and Billy all became each other’s therapists and wound-healers, reminding me of a quote I once heard from a famous rock climber: “Experiences that require that much struggle and involve that much raw human emotion, really expose us. When you’re that exposed, you can’t help but either love or hate the people you’re with. It just happens that way. When you’re rubbed raw, your partners are going to be salt in your wound, or they’re going to be Bandaids. (love this) Together, Augustines was able to transform this tragic past into emotional emancipation— emancipation from pain endured by others with similar tragedy. Their struggles only built them a stronger warrior, adding more metal to their armor. They’d beaten off every unfortunate circumstance thrown their way, spinning every negative into a positive, and eventually shouting this message to the world with renewed spirit and vitality. “By the end of that tour,” explains Allen, “we had people at festivals dancing and singing words back to us. It was incredible. I don’t think we were fully expecting that. But by the end of it, it was so inspiring that, after two and a half years, we were able to look at the past with a positive attitude. And that’s really what this new record is about – capturing those feelings and positive energy. It made us a unit. It made us a band.”

The positive reaction and excitement from Augustines first album (Augustines) ended up overpowering the tragedy and darkness that inspired it, and they realized that they wanted to feed off that excitement. The new album doesn’t deal with the despair of the first,” Billy said. Instead, it’s about the excitement that he, Eric and Rob felt as they grew the band from the ashes of another project and made it its own success. After playing >250 shows in 2011, they feel they’ve become better live performers, and have enjoyed the fans’ reciprocation of their on-stage passion. “For me,” says Eric, “the core of the record is the concept of a walkabout. Going on a journey to find– re-find–yourself after going through a life changing experience. What do you do when you make it through the other side?  When you can confidently say that you’ve worked through the tragedy? When your life actually starts to mirror the belief you have in yourself?” It’s an album of rebirth, renewal, and regeneration, as well as growth, exploration, and moving on from the past. Robs adds: “The whole point is finding who you are and finding yourself, taking in everything that happened and moving on. Because by the end of it, we felt so many positive vibes and we wanted to put that into the record. There are loads of big sing-alongs and choruses, and it’s all because, when we were playing, we’d get that back from the crowds and it was so inspirational for us. It was a wonderful feeling and we wanted to make sure that got put onto the record.”

For Billy, finding himself and moving on from the past meant to re-visit it (old schools, old teachers) and to visit places FAR from “home”: Turkey, Mexico, Kenya, Alaska. My good friend Allie once told me that you “never know what ‘home’ is until you travel away from it,” and I couldn’t agree more. Before playing Walkabout at the Lexington that night (yes, I definitely went on a tangent), Billy talked about how he was unsure where “home” was, and so he decided to do a “walkabout” and explore the world. He drove his motorcycle all across the States, up to Alaska (“exploring isolated territory of caribou and dogsled packs”), and even went as far as Turkey, Mexico and Kenya (“I played the demo of ‘Cruel City’ to Kenyans in Kenya”). He made everyone laugh with his witty story, but soon these giggles became tears as he wailed this melancholy majestic ballad in stride with Eric’s beautiful piano (during the beginning and end):

“Into the arms of the sea,
Where my tide had carried me,
I walked out of the waves,
To be quiet with storms inside.”   (slayed)

While I do love ALL of the songs on the new album (Augustines), Walkabout –the albums’ key track– strikes a special chord in me. Although I didn’t flee Brooklyn and ride a motorcycle down to Mexico and up to Alaska like Billy, I did leave California for international work and have been traveling around Europe (17 countries in 15 months) in search of new adventure, paying close attention to where I could see myself calling “home.” Walkabout was released right about when I needed to start making some hard fast moves regarding my decision to stay in London (or go back home), and I can’t help but tear up every time Billy roars “COME ON HOME” during the middle. And “roar” means ROAR– Billy feels every word and relives every moment of every lyric that he vocalizes on stage, and YOU feel it too. Knowing this, he asked the audience after Walkabout“Was that too much?” This apprehension reminded me of something I heard Billy discuss in an interview: “If I’m not mistaken, life aches…It’s like when I hear flamenco, I like it when those women go [he imitates a wail]. I didn’t wake up one day and go, ‘Hey, I’m going to sing like I’m nearly crying’. It’s just that that’s how it makes me feel.” Life sometimes DOES ache, and although we often travel (“walkabout”) to make sense of this life, travel too, can hurt. I quote Anthony Bourdain: “Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”

Aside from Walkabout, the other standout track to me is Now You are Free, and I only just found out that it was previously considered for the album’s title: “When we started working on this record it was called ‘Now You Are Free’. Because when you invest all your time and heart and passion into getting somewhere and overcoming obstacles and finding a sense of peace and you finally get there, you’re free to do whatever you want. We’re free to finally prove ourselves to people and live life the way it should be,” Eric says. Adding to this, Billy comments, “You’re free to walk the walk you always said you could walk.” Now You Are Free is one of those universal songs that most ANYONE can relate to and make sense of in their own unique way. Everyone has ghosts from their past that they need to “let go,” and so when Billy belted out this ballad, we couldn’t help throw our fists in the air and belt along too:

“You got to let go
Let go all of your ghosts
You got to let go
Or more will come around…
Alright, now go easy on yourself..
Alright, now you are free…”

As if that verse didn’t satisfy your inner rockstar, the next one would. Fast-forwarding from the Lexington gig to the much larger gig at KOKO (a few months later), I lucidly recall my anxious anticipation as the entire crowd (1,500+ screaming fans) shouted “WHAT AM I RUNNIN’ FROM?” over and over –echoing Billy in a call-and-response kind of manner– right before the highly climatic response of: “Myself and everyone….LET GO!” Hands down one of the most CATHARTIC musical experiences of my life. And to top it off, Billy introduced the song with some inspirational words that will forever stay present in my mind: “THIS IS YOUR FUCKING LIFE!…Don’t give up on your shit I promise.” I DID have ghosts, but now they’re gone. x

I’ve always found that the most powerful way to SAVOR is to share feelings and events with others as they unfold. This is EXACTLY what makes Augustines different from any of the other bands I’ve seen. They SHARE THE STAGE with their fans. “Action for me is in the crowd,” Billy says. “If we can minimize the distance between the artist and the crowd and make it for more of crowd participation, then that’s really something.” Eric adds, to us “It’s not (about) musicians up on a pedestal…The audience is singing, the audience is dancing, they’re all making music together…That’s what we’ve been trying to do our whole lives as musicians, but only recently have we been able to embrace that.” On the recent Augustines tour in particular, the band had developed a reputation for playing their encore (~5 songs) IN THE CROWDS, some of which are also IN PARKING LOTS. I mean, you can’t get anymore public than that. When asked to comment on this, Billy explains: “This is us handing it over to those people that sang our songs back to us all over the world…It’s all about being inclusive…Interaction is the lifeblood of what we think music is.” This inclusiveness is what sucks us fans into the Augustine vortex and has us roaring in a vehement sing-a-long to their lyrics, gasping for air at the end of each verse. You feel exhausted at the end, but it’s an exhaustion that you crave because it’s made you heal. The best medicine out there.

New Drink for the Old Drunk was one of those songs that they played IN THE CROWD that night at the Lexington, and in fact, Billy was standing RIGHT in front of me. (Dying). There are many caustic lines in that song, but this one always stands out: “And you cringe as you binge to forget how you hate…All the doom in the pitiful room you create. Wow. Aside from New Drink for the Old Drunk, Augustines later added The Avenue, Weary Eyes, and East Los Angeles, as songs they would play in the crowd as part of their encore. They also learned some cover songs, like Guns of Brixton by the Clash, which they played at KOKO. That KOKO gig was MENTAL, and while The Avenue was played on one of the theater balconies, the rest of the encore was played with Billy, Eric, and Rob surfing (pretty much) in the middle of a SEA OF FANS. This highly anticipated gig surely escalated into one night of EPIC MUSICAL ESCAPE, and I could not be more captivated by a band who’s honesty and pure passion is more tangible than most bands will ever know. By the end of the show, every fan looked as if they had been spellbound by the Augustine fever. I nearly died when Rob, a London native (usually very shy), shouted to the crowd with his hands raised high in the air, “LONDAAAAN, you MAKE ME PROUD.” Yup, THESE is these are the moments I live for. Like Billy was saying all night: “This is your FUCKING LIFE!”

And if there is ONE SONG, one song that Billy breathes life into MOST, it’s Book of James. He’s commented before that Book of James was the most meaningful song of the first album: “I think anybody that’s a writer… well, sometimes the closest distance between what you want to say and how it’s being perceived, sometimes that can be a big gap or it can be very immediate: right from your heart, out of your hands, into a page and the person gets it. I think that happened in that song. I needed it to happen in my life that kind of straightened me out. It’s kind of an interesting thing that you can set a four-minute piece of music and it can change your life. I needed to say some things. I needed to reach out to somebody that wasn’t treated well. I needed to restore some innocence to somebody who I didn’t think it was his/her fault. It gave me a platform to move through the process of adjusting what had happened. It was a bit of a gift. I’m really proud of it.” As a listener, this song encourages you to be with Billy as he grieves his brother’s loss and lives to honor it—to be somewhere between life (hope) and death (fear): Here lies, my green eye, rolled back in my head…but they’re ALIVE.” (SLAYED) And, if that doesn’t lather your skin with chills, this next verse will: “And all these words can all get spoken…just know we tried…and you’re forgiven.” (could be a Hail Mary) They extended the instrumental intro to Book of James that night at KOKO in order to build up rapture and lure us in even more. Billy has definitely made the legacy of his brother live in him during this song. That’s obvious. For me, Book of James was the ONE SONG in particular that kept my legs moving and had me cross that finish line for my first marathon (Gran Canaria) a week after the Lexington gig. Each Augustines song (especially Don’t Look Back, Kid You’re On Your Own, and This Aint’ Me) contributed a mile to that marathon, but Book of James found my ‘SUPER HUMAN.’

There is no denying that Augustines has changed me for the better, and that their WALKABOUT into my life came at a perfect time. Just like they give it THEIR ALL at each and every gig (playing every second as it if was their last), I wanted to give MY ALL in writing about them. This review had brewing in my bloodstream for a WHILE –ever since I first saw them at the Lexington back in January– But, it wasn’t something that I wanted to rush. I wanted to exhaust all of my efforts to convey my appreciation for this band, and to lead others to do the same. I find that the most beautiful/extraordinary things in life are often the most difficult to convey, so this review was surely a challenge. If you’ve stood next to me at an Augustines’ show, then you would UNDERSTAND. Some emotions, feelings, and experiences just CAN’T be transcribed, and so my best advice would be to GO SEE FOR YOURSELF. Every Augustine gig has been branded in my memory as a ‘moment I’ve LIVED for,’ moments that DO last a lifetime. “This is your FUCKING LIFE.” The music and story of Augustines has given us SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN, and for more than just a moment. Don’t forget to RISE UP in helping to make their story heard.  🙂

I won’t be able to make their Roundhouse gig in Dec cause I’ll be in Melbourne, Australia, so I need to SAVOR EVERY MOMENT at GREEN MAN festival this weekend! Augustines will play on Friday, August 15th. This also happens to be BILLY’S BIRTHDAY!! (with ERIC’S BIRTHDAY the next night!) WHAT ARE THE ODDS?!! I mean, REALLY. We BETTER make sure we HELP THEM CELEBRATE!  xxx

All of my pictures and videos from their gigs can be found below.

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Augustines– The Lexington (Jan 21, 2014)

VIDEOS:

Augustine

City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia):

Walkabout

Book of James:

New Drink for the Old Drunk:

PICTURES:

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Augustines– KOKO (April 14, 2014)

VIDEOS:

Walkabout

Nothing to Lose But Your Head

The Avenue:

Now You are Free:

Hold On To Anything: 

Book of James

PICTURES:

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Augustines– Great Escape (May 8, 2014)

VIDEOS:

Book of James:

 

Mogwai: “Music is so powerful that it’s quite beyond my control…and when I’m in the grips of it I don’t feel pleasure and I don’t feel pain.”

Mogwai– KOKO, London

(July 29, 2014)

I had always heard that Mogwai was an incredibly SOLID BAND and one of Scotland’s FINEST, but for some reason, I let them slip under my radar (which is pretty surprising considering my hearty appetite for Scottish bands: Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad, Admiral Fallow, Three Blind Wolves, Washington Irving, We Were Promised Jetpacks, RM Hubbert, Fatherson, Bwani Junction, CHVRCHES). I remember I was going to see Mogwai at Sasquatch music festival back in May 2012, but they cancelled last minute due to visa/travel issues. Looking back, I can’t even IMAGINE hearing/watching their ethereal music emanate over the Gorge’s siiiiiiiiick celestial skyline. MY GOD. Seeing them and Explosions in the Sky on one weekend might have shattered my brain to bits, and maybe it was for the best…NOT. If it wasn’t for The Twilight Sad (one of my favorite Scottish bands) announcing a benefit concert with them to honor the loss of Julia Brightly, I might not have traveled down MogWAY (thankfully I did). The benefit was the idea of Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai and Daveid Phillips from KOKO, and the message they posted on their ticket page was:

“On Saturday 3rd May, ​we were devastated to learn of the passing of our beautiful friend Julia Brightly who lost her struggle to sudden illness (cancer). To say all of us were in shock is a huge understatement.  Anyone who knew her from the days of the Mute Drivers to any artists she did sound for, from Mogwai, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Caribou to Slint and her friends & family will all agree, she was one of the bravest and most talented people we were lucky enough to call a friend. We all miss her dearly, and although sadly departed she will never be forgotten. In her honour we are staging a benefit to donate all the proceeds to one of Julia’s favourite charities, Gendered Intelligence – something very close to Julia’s heart…All proceeds from the concert will be donated to GenderedIntelligence.co.uk.” SUCH an amazing idea and generous offer by both bands, and I’m so glad I was able to be a part of it.

After a brilliant set by The Twilight Sad (they keep getting better and better every time I see them), I anxiously anticipated this “post-rock instrumental band” that I had been hearing alot about. I recall meeting a guy at The Twilight Sad’s Bandstand Busking event (June 21) telling me that Mogwai was his FAVORTE BAND OF ALL TIME and that he’s seen them 11 TIMES NOW (including traveling to Primavera Sound Music festival every year they’ve played). Well, let me tell you…I can TOTALLY see WHY he’s seen them that insane amount of times, and whey he’s harnessed an addiction for their hypnotic concoction of music. I am STILL LEVITATING from Tuesday night’s performance at KOKO, and my EYES HURT (literally, I’ve had sore eyes since) from how long I’d kept them WIDE-EYED (buggin out!) during the entire set. I was lucky enough to soak up all the magic from the very front, and might just have collapsed if the railing was not there. Serious adrenaline. Serious numbing. Serious loss of motor control.

It’s hard to describe the beauty of the compositions that Mogwai create– their music steal snippets of magic from genres like shoegazing, math rock, art rock and occasionally instrumental metal. It was once stated in an interview that “the band do not like the categorisation of post-rock” because they believe it “over-analyzes everything.” I definitely agree, and many times I’ve found that the most beautiful things in life are often the hardest (and sometimes impossible) to describe. What I CAN SAY it is seems to me like symphonic music made with rock instruments, similar to Explosions in the Sky, but with alot more distorted guitar (which I LOVE). I was lucky enough to see Explosions in the Sky both at Sasquatch music festival (2012) and at the Palace of Fine Arts theater (sick, I know). More recently, I’ve seen 65daysofstatic and sleepmakeswaves, two other bands who I can draw some parallels to Mogwai.

I was so BLOWN AWAY by how adroit and technically-sound all of Mogwai‘s band members were, and how flawlessly they would exchange instruments like they were PLAYING A GAME OF CATCH.  In the absence of lyrics, it’s obvious they all communicate through their unique instrumental dialogue: raging riffs, piercing percussion, tantalizing trill, disturbing distortion, bellowing base…(You get the picture). Having formed in 1995, Mogwai (…MogWAY…MogWOW) has craft their craft into the music scene for nearly two decades now, and their talented cast includes: Stuart Braithwaite (guitar, vocals), John Cummings (guitar, vocals), Barry Burns (guitar, piano, synthesizer, vocals), Dominic Aitchison (bass guitar), and Martin Bulloch (drums). The spot I chose to stand (front left facing the stage) just happened to be directly across from John Cummings, who is one to stand the farthest out on stage (and I’m not complaining). BUT, the COOLEST THING about this band is that there IS NO FRONTMAN. They ALL alternate in taking “center-stage,” and it’s not like all the focus is can be on the singer (cause they don’t have one!). I love this concept.

The entire set was MIND-BLOWING (did I mention that already?), but the first song to strike a chord in me was White Noise, (see video below) off their 2011 album, ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will.’ I loved being right in front of John Cumming’s guitar greatness, especially for this song, where you can’t help but sink into the mellowing monotony of his undulating riff. You then find yourself sinking deeper into this wave at 2 min in, when Stuart layers on an additional guitar riffs that stagger John’s in all the right places. I wish all WHITE NOISE sounded THIS GOOD. But, we must be honest with ourselves…this “noise” is “in fact the brilliant music of a genius.” It’s fusion of complex sound is guaranteed to stimulate a level of curiosity that is beyond our control.

I also recall the 5th SONG being one of my FAVORITES of the night, and I’m a bit upset I didn’t get it on video. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but I found out later (from that guy I met who’s seen them 11 times) that this 5th song is called Christmas Steps, and that it’s one they HARDLY EVER play live. Well then…I must have a pretty DAMN GOOD FILTER, cause I put this on the top of my list without ever haven’t listened to their albums (although now that’s definitely changed now). I just remember gentle guitar melody in the beginning suddenly become devoured but a BABBLING BASELINE at about 4 min in, and the clashing contrast was just freaking phenomenal. The plucking of the base strings in that one was like something I’d never seen before. BRUTAL ATTACK. (So good).

Nearly right after Christmas Steps was Autorock, the piano powerhouse off Mogwai’s 2006 album, ‘Mr Beast.’ The piano riff starts out soft (well, For Mogwai’s standards), and slowly builds volume and intensity throughout, keeping us VERY MUCH on our TIPTOES the entire time. Barry Burns banging on those keys was definitely a “MR BEAST” in this one. xx

Then came Remurdered, a popular gem off Mogwai’s newest album, ‘Rave Tapes’ (released October 2013). This album, by the way, entered the UK album charts at #10 and as of April 2014 has been the best selling UK album released in 2014 in terms of vinyl sales. WELL DESERVED. I currently can’t get enough of Remurdered, and it’s def going to be the title track of my next playlist.

Immediately following this one was Helicon 1, one of Mogwai’s best from their debut album, ‘Ten Rapid.’ I knew this one was gonna be SOMETHING SPECIAL when Stuart took a seat. It reminds me so much of an Explosions in the Sky song, but more distorted guitar (as I mentioned before). YAAAAAAAS. Grip me with that kinda distortion any day. A flood of adrenaline at ~4 min in, and everything becomes numb. xxx

With only two more songs left, my brain could NOT EVEN HANDLE all of the stimulation/euphoria I was experiencing. My eyes were bugging out of my head and tearing (thank gosh cause I’m sure they would have dried out), and I was left speechless. SPEECHLESS (and anyone who knows me knows that I ALWAYS have something to say!)…It was so cool to later share my REVELATION with the girls standing and me, including someone I had met previously at a Twilight Sad gig (see our huge smiles below). Then, I later saw that Mogwai music buddy (who had seen Mogwai 11 times) on the tube that night and basically let our ENTIRE TRAIN CART know how I felt about the life-changing gig. (I tried to subdue my squeal and number of “holy shit”‘s…)

Since that gig (see set-list below), I have downloaded all Mogwai albums and been listening non-stop. This new discovery truly came at an ideal time, and with an insane amount of scientific data to soon tie up, their music offers the perfect mindscape. I was all excited to analyze my 100+ brain images yesterday, knowing that I had this MogWOW feast to dig into. Just like they state in their Postpunk song, “Music is so powerful that it’s quite beyond my control…and when I’m in the grips of it I don’t feel pleasure and I don’t feel pain, either physically or emotionally…when you just couldn’t feel anything, and you didn’t want to either.”  YES….I know EXACTLY what you mean. And although you might not be conscious of how Mogwai’s music is making you feel WHILE listening, you later realize that it’s seeped into your subconsious will all sorts of healing powers.

I’m on such a Mogwai kick right now that I’m vacilating between the decision of seeing them (or not) at Richmond Park in Glasgow as part of East End Social’s ‘Last Big Weekend.’ Not only will it be one of their last announced gigs of the year, BUT, it will be IN THEIR HOMETOWN. I can’t EVEN IMAGINE that musical “MogWOW” madness…. (I’m most likely GONNA GO)  🙂

VIDEOS:

Helicon 1:

Autorock:

White Noise:

PICTURES:

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Catfish and the Bottlemen- “I want to endorse you…I want you to EXHAUST ME.”

Catfish and the Bottlemen– The Barfly, London (July 23, 2013)

I first stumbled upon Catfish and the Bottlemen at a Communion event held at one of my favorite Camden venues, the Barfly. Other acts in the Communion lineup were Sam Fender and Nick Mulvey, both very talented singer/songwriters. I was extremely impressed with what I heard, and predicted a HUGE FUTURE for these Welsh lads. I met Billy and Van that night and told them all about the killer festivals in the states that I could see them doing. Van has killer frontman personality (HILARIOUS) that is perfect for engaging crowds and getting them on your side. As a loyal fan and buddy of this group from their early beginnings, I went on to see them a total of SIX TIMES in London (Barfly, KOKO, O2 Islington Academy, the Macbeth, Sebright Arms, The Borderline). CRAZY, I know. They were always so immensely appreciative and humbled by my support, and it feels good when Rob (aka “Dr Bob”) asks you your opinion about the new songs as feedback for the debut album. I always told them that Pacifer, Homesick, and Sidewinder (especially) were my favorite of their early setlists, and that Rango and A.S.A. would be their next big hits. Sidewinder’s pulsating riffs and infectious energy stir up all sorts of madness, and some of the lines (“I want to endorse you, I want you to EXHAUST ME”) are pretty hot. Turns out my prediction was spot on, cause Zane Lowe of Radio 1 deemed these songs (Kathleen) some of the “hottest record in the world”, and soon reached the top of the charts (as well as playlists for the epic footballers of Manchester United!…Also, my wish for them to tour the states came true, cause they got the opportunity to do the Governor’s Ball and Bonnaroo this year, as well as a few other additional fests! Re-VANped (pun intended) by their American glory, they came back the the UK fired up for a whole slew of summer festivals: Ibiza RocksWakestock, T in the Park, Somersault, Tramlines, Kendal Calling, Belladrum, Boardmasters, Read and Leeds, Bestival…All BEFORE RELEASING THEIR DEBUT ALBUM. Mental! They also just SOLD OUT a headline show at KOKO in November, but I’ll be gone from London by then and I won’t get to be HOMESICK with them one last time. The energy and charisma of this indie rock quintet is pretty rare, and their chemistry is hard to find; the all grew up together in small-town Wales, and it SHOWS! Glad I was at least able to catch those CATFISH before others CAUGHT ON! 😛

VIDEOS:

Homesick

Sidewinder

Tyrants

PICTURES:

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Catfish and the Bottlemen– The Macbeth, London (Aug 29, 2013)

VIDEOS:

Rango

PICTURES:

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Catfish and the Bottlemen– Sebright Arms (Sep 16, 2013)

Rango

Kathleen

Pacifier

Heartbreaker

Sidewinder

PICTURES:

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Catfish and the Bottlemen– O2 Islington Academy, London (Oct 25, 2013)

VIDEOS:

A.S.A.:

PICTURES:

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Catfish and the Bottlemen– The Borderline, London (Feb 24, 2013)

PICTURES:

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Sharon Van Etten- “We’ve been through better days, And you’ve tasted all my pain…Break my legs so I can’t walk to you…”

Sharon Van Etten– KOKO, London (June 5, 2014)

A review by Erica Andreozzi

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Getting to MEET SHARON the first time I ever saw her. It was at a tiny venue (Rickshaw Stop) in San Francisco, and was the night I passed my PhD defense. There’s no one else I’d rather spend me first night as a “Dr.” with! LOVE HER.

I remember as if it were yesterday. August 10, 2012. Not just the day I passed my thesis defense, but the day I got to see AND MEET one of my favorite female artists OF ALL TIME: Sharon Van Etten. Having started listening to her a year prior through an Irish buddy I met in Barcelona, I was immediately HOOKED by Epic and even later by the fierce grasp of their newer arrival, Tramp. A devout fan of the National since 2010, I was enamored by the thought of Aaron Dressner and Sharon sitting down together, mixing up some musical madness together in some Brooklyn studio. She speaks very highly of Aaron, and says it was he that taught her how to “communicate in the studio” and be “open to collaboration” (e.g. working with Beirut‘s Zach Condon and Wye Oak‘s Jenn Wassner) without “shying away from production.” “I feel like Aaron gave me a lot of tools and confidence to communicate with my band and it made me want to try something different sonically. I wanted to give the songs more space and not bury them in instrumentation. I really wanted to focus on the band and the space and the melodies.” You could definitely sense the extra dimension in Tramp, and even more so in her newest album, ‘Are We There‘ (released June 2014). For this album, Sharon rounded up a two more band members, Darren Jessee (of Ben Folds Five and Hotel Lights) and Brad Cook (from Megafaun), both joining alumni Heather Woods Broderick and Doug Keith. I remember Doug very well because I was standing RIGHT IN FRONT of him (arms reach away) at that Rickshaw Stop gig and was serenaded by his EPIC bowing of the guitar intro to ‘I’m Wrong’ (one of my favorites from their collection). CHILLS up and down my spine every time I hear that song, and the “tell my I’m worth all the miles you put on your car…” line always draws a tear. ‘I’m Wrong‘ and ‘Joke or a Lie,’ back-to-back ON REPEAT was instant therapy for me during the weeks leading up to my PhD defense, and am not sure I would have made it (in one piece) without these songs. That strong dependency on Sharon’s music was something I could not be more eager to share with her that night (after I passed)…AND I DID (hence the picture above). Normally I would have been nervous to approach her, but her down-to-earth spirit and bubbly, comedic banter throughout the set just instantly diffused those nerves and suddenly I felt like she was a good friend who I had known for years. I was shocked to find that someone who sings such devastating, heart-breaking songs could be so happy-go-lucky and utterly HILARIOUS…(so hilarious that I actually asked her if she was “a comedian before this,” to which she replied, ” I liked doing gags, like saran wrap on the toilet seat.”)…She also mentioned eating waaaaay too much chocolate cake that day, and when I mentioned that to her 6 months later at their December gig in London (The Forum), SHE REMEMBERED ME…literally pointed to me in a crowd of 1500 people and was like “HEY YOU!”…(I was DYING). It just goes to show you that no matter how big or famous some artists get, they will still remain the GENUINELY AWESOME PERSON that got them there in the first place. “I don’t want to be big,” Sharon said in a recent interview with Gigwise. “I don’t want to be bigger. I think that with the way I write and perform, I like where I am. I’m kind of scared to get any bigger because I just don’t think that’s the reason I do this. I soon as I don’t know who I’m connecting with or why then I want to stop and do something different. I’m not even like a festival kind of band – who wants to stop partying to come and listen to me? It doesn’t make sense to me, but I feel lucky to be here. I don’t have any ‘moves’.” She wants to still feel the impact (on a personal level) with her fans, and I very much admire her for that. Sharon is developing a fan base for all the right reasons, and we can only continue to LOVE MORE (pun intended) the many sides of this dynamic, lovable lady.  ❤ And this lovable lady is proving that her music can only get better with time, and her evolution as an artist is something we can only look forward to. Having added 2 new members to her touring WOLF PACK, some might be concerned that they additional instruments would drown out her sound on the new album, ‘Are We There,’  but they don’t. When asked about maintaining the intimacy and purity of her music while involving more people, Sharon replies: “The songs still originate from my bedroom, for the most part, and start from a really intimate place. I feel as long as the melody is supported and not covered you can hear that intimacy.” When discussing the inspiration for ‘Are We There,’ she says, “The whole album was written over the past two years while on the road, touring Tramp. And the songs are all about the struggle of trying to have a home life, relationship – and also trying to work and the frustration that comes with trying to balance it all when it is virtually impossible…In the end, I had to choose my work over having a relationship because the person I was with couldn’t handle it. It was someone that I loved very deeply, but it just plays on people’s insecurities when you’re in a place that they’re not. And that’s kinda what that song is about, what the whole record’s about.” I’m not a famous musician or anything (obviously), but I can definitely emphasize with that nomadic type lifestyle, and I can see how difficult it would be to maintain a healthy relationship (esp. with someone outside the business who might not understand). But what I (and most others) love about Sharon is how fearless she is in facing her subconscious and unleashing many of the deep-seated  affliction that most people would rather suppress. “I have a hard time not wearing my heart on my sleeve and answering people honestly. You know, my friends warn me that I should be more guarded ‘cause sometimes I am too honest and open, but it’s also just who I am. I don’t like to hold back. Especially with who I am and what I do, it’s all me, everything’s my name, it’s what I do, it’s how I feel, it’s what I think. Over the last two years, I’m beginning to think that what I do is kind of self-centered, you know? And I’ve been contemplating doing something else after a couple of years, ‘cause it’s all me. It’s almost like, why do people care about me?…I love who I work with, and I’m lucky, and I know that people would kill to be in the position that I’m in, but it’s fucking with my head a little bit. It’s all about me and my life and my hardships or whatever you want to call it, and I don’t know who I’m helping, I don’t know what I’m doing…I feel pretty selfish to be doing what I’m doing and not knowing who it’s affecting or who it’s helping.” But I wish I could tell her (shout it out) that she is HELPING ME!!  Without Sharon’s recent album  release and gig at KOKO, I am not sure I could have made it through last week without having complete meltdown. The one song that became my instant ailment (still is) was ‘Afraid of Nothing.’ It’s actually the title track to my recent playlist: https://beatsthatsetmypulse.wordpress.com/afraid-of-nothing/ The minute I hear those intro piano chords to this song, my fear/troubles/frustrations instantly dissipate off my chest, and suddenly I feel a thousand times lighter. This was the first song of Sharon’s set at KOKO, and I couldn’t help but choke up (at the first song, lame I know). I would have loved getting this on video, but the photographers were obstructing my view. These lyrics = therapy: “I can’t wait…Til we’re afraid…Of nothing. I can’t wait…Til we hide….From nothing…Nothing.” Next up in the set was ‘Taking Chances,’ one of my other favorites from the new album. The beat is so hypnotic and catchy, and the lyrics just flow behind like a perfect cascade: “When you love all of you, they know all of you..Be alone and take, and you break for your sake…Even I’ve taken my chances….Even I’ve taken my chances on you.” Then it was ‘Tarifa‘, a song that didn’t’ capture my initial interest the first time through, but now that I listen more and more I’ really drawn to it: “Tell me when…Tell me when is this over?…Chewed you out…Chew me out when I’m stupid.” After the first 3 songs (photographers booted, thank you), Sharon apologizes to the the audience, saying that she is a bit sick and will have to carry her tissues on stage..(she later jokes about about making a business with personalized tissues). Then she cracks a few jokes with her keyboardist/back up singer, Heather, who claimed at the red tambourine wasn’t “her color.” She soon interrupts the set with an oldie (but goodie), ‘Don’t Do It,’ and the crowd goes wild for the tune that we all know and love: “Look me in the eyes, say you can’t do it, but you will if you want to…I wish I could make you right.”  (fierce ending…wish I could give her a hug!) Next was another oldie, a song (‘Give Out‘) she introduces as the reason why she “moved to the city“: “What’s with the eyes…In the back of the room?…The only ones shining…The only ones I’d met in years…“I’m biting my lip…As confidence is speaking to me.”  (this continues to be one of my favorites of her older stuff) Just before she hits us with a new one, she giggles as she and Doug discuss how much they are enjoying the show during their “meeting minutes.” (haha)  Then someone in the crowd yells, “We love you Sharon!,” to which she replies (looking out with her hand over her forehead, ” DAD? Is that you?” Everyone laughs as she then explains how it’s not uncommon for her parents to randomly show up and surprise her at gigs in different cities, as they have in the past for both Dublin and Paris. (But then she says they would not be here because they are at home getting ready for her sister’s wedding). Next up was another new one, ‘Nothing will change,’ and I for sure felt the gravity in these lyrics; “It had been a while and I thought that you’d forgot about me I never could have forgotten you. (def have been there…) The next song (‘Break Me‘) seems to be a continueation of ‘Give out’, and I can’t help but draw a parallel between the two. She says, “This is a song about therapy, cause I need it.” (LOVE THE OMNICHORD IN THIS ONE) “He can make me..Move into a city on my knees…He can take in everything…Hoping he let’s me in..I, I let you in.” She then played one more old one (‘Serpents‘) before finishing off her collection of new gems, including ‘You Know Me Well‘: “Everyone is crazy with their own life…Lies in existential you ever want to find your way out…Turn into yourself again and reach on out….To become your true self…You know me well….You show me hell when I’m looking…And here you are…Looking.” I’m just not that broken any more,” Sharon says in a recent interview. “I feel like I’ve been hurt and I’m still hurt, but for different reasons. I know who I am more, I know what I want, I don’t take as much shit, I know what I don’t want, I know what I will not tolerate, I know when I’m making someone else happy and vice versa…I still get hurt and get sad, I’m still a romantic at heart, but I think that one thing about growing up is that you know what you want more.”  (YES.) Following this is the song, “Your Love is Killing Me,” which has drawn the attention of many and is “the heaviest thing she’s ever written.” In response to everyone’s concern and consideration, Sharon responds: “I am doing fine. It’s just this is what I do.” I call it “The Beast” because it is relentless.” She freaking lets all hell lose on this one. Emotional implosion. Her voice is on the verge of SHATTERING at the very end as if her heart were all the sudden in her throat. 

We’ve been through better days And you’ve tasted all my pain

Break my legs so I won’t walk to you Cut my tongue so I can’t talk to you Burn my skin so I can’t feel you Stab my eyes so I can’t see You like it when I let you walk over me You tell me that you like it Your love is killing me

There he let it go, his temper, standing there See her with his gun and he, steals love so he can feel alive   (This line SLAYS ME) Everyone’s knees knockin’ at the fear of love Taste blood Everybody needs to feel.”

Following “The Beast” is a song (‘Every time The Sun Comes up‘) that Sharon introduces as “literal in every way,” and one that her band tricked her with: “People say I’m a one-hit wonder But what happens when I have two? I washed your dishes, but I shitted in your bathroom..’ (hahah) She follows with another hit from the new album, ‘I Love You But I’m Lost“: “Come in here and be yourself again I love you but I’m not somebody who take shots See me after I recoil I’m better than I know There’s room to grow .. Let’s turn it into something we can change I love you but I’m lost Between the pain and cost I hold myself alive.” After thanking TONS of people, including her old drummer (now manager), Zeke, Sharon says that she can either play a song or tell a story (for the encore). Riding on gut and intuition, Sharon dismisses (as nice as possible) the many song suggestions from the audience and instead says, “But I sorta had a plan, guys…‘  before she dazzles us with her last track on the album, “I Know.” “And then you push me out I know, I know And then you disappear because you can’t fight fear I know, I know ..I all ever wanted as YOU.”   (she warned us that it was going to be a sad one) Every time I write, it is for therapeutic purposes. I write when I am going through a really hard time. I hit record and sing stream of conscious. I usually let it out for about ten or twenty minutes and then wait a day or two then listen back a day or two later so I have some perspective on what I was going through. Nine times out of ten I don’t share those “songs” with anyone because they are too personal. The ones I choose to share are the ideas that are more relatable and universal so I don’t alienate the listener – and hopefully they can connect with it on their own personal level.”  YES, yes they do! We love you, “SHIZZLE.” (what she called herself on the set) xxx And to leave YOU on a personal level, here are a few interesting comments I read about Sharon in a recent interview: CP- What do you hope for? SVE—I hope to one day find balance in my life.   (my biggest struggle too!) CP—What motivates you to make music? SVE—Healing myself, helping others heal, and helping others feel not so alone. CP—What makes you smile? SVE—A dad with their kid, a stranger helping someone, someone else smiling (it’s contagious!) CP—When are you most at peace? SVE—At the beach. CP—What are you most scared of? SVE—Never settling down.     (ME TOO)

MORE PICTURES:

IMG_9271 IMG_9304 IMG_9294 IMG_9293 IMG_9292 IMG_9291 IMG_9290 IMG_9288 IMG_9287 IMG_9285 IMG_9285-001 IMG_9284 IMG_9283 IMG_9280 IMG_9272IMG_9276IMG_9274 IMG_9273 Recent interviews with Sharon: http://www.gigwise.com/news/91564/sharon-van-etten-im-not-broken-any-more http://thelabmagazine.com/2014/06/02/sharon-van-etten/ http://www.vulture.com/2014/05/fred-armisen-interviews-sharon-van-etten-new-album-are-we-there.html