In less than two months since a shimmering set in the Night & Day Cafe, We Are Augustines have returned home from their first European tour, galvanised neutrals at South By Southwest and Coachella, delivered headline sets from Hollywood to native New York, and released their debut album, Rise Ye Sunken Ships. Suffice to say, they have an urgency infusing everything they do just now, seemingly terrified that these precious moments should pass them by unfulfilled.
Urgency proves to be a theme for the evening. Seattle’s My Goodness bulldoze through the traditional support band nerves from the very start. Their two-man hardcore blues attack throttles an unsuspecting audience into rapid submission; within 2 or 3 songs (and they don’t specialise in epics) Academy 3 is virtually full. One senses there may be fortune in My Goodness’ timing– what with The Black Keys currently soundtracking every second advert on our televisions, it seems that stripped back, serrated blues rock is in the ascendancy again. But My Goodness lend themselves less to Jack White’s countless projects and more to the blistering force of Fugazi, or even fellow Seattleites the Melvins, thanks to frontman Joel Schneider’s searing guitar stabs and drummer Ethan Jacobsen’s complex rhythms. Debut single ‘C’Mon Doll’ (out 28 May) is the obvious choice to kick-start their recording career, and despite – astoundingly – this being their first ever UK set, greater days undoubtedly lie ahead for them.
The baying crowd, buoyed from such a pulsating opening, are immediately re-energised by chief Augustine Billy McCarthy’s emergence. Before a chord is struck, he stands astride the front-of-stage speakers, left arm aloft, half way between returning war hero and heavyweight champion of the world. The people love it. Already it is clear that We Are Augustines have amassed a rare devotion from their followers. Truth be told, rarely from that moment does the intensity dip. And whilst in their best moments – say, new single ‘Juarez’, or the song ‘Augustine’ – they are capable of translating their boundless energy into stomping refrains and soaring choruses, they are reluctant to deviate too far from their trusty formula. What to some could be seen as cloying emo, devoid of a certain subtlety, to others is a blissfully entertaining night out, and there can be no doubt which of the two populates the great majority of Academy 3 tonight.
The spectre of Springsteen is unavoidable amidst all this. It may be unfair, and I daresay the band are already sick of hearing the very mention of his name, but such broad, heart-on-sleeve Americana will continue to live in the Boss’ shadow for some time, and unfortunately We Are Augustines are not the ones equipped to overturn that obstacle. But as a particularly rousing ‘Barrel of Leaves’ descends, and a 3-piece horn section joins the band on stage, we are already confronted with a tailor-made set closer. ‘Book of James’ bears all of the best Augustines hallmarks, adorned with yearning, lovelorn lyrics, rallying crescendo and crowd-pleasing payoff.
Rarely do you feel an encore is genuinely demanded these days, but those two peculiarly scrawny bouncers at the door would have had a job on staving off the riot that certainly would have ensued in a no show tonight. A rare down-tempo track, ‘East Los Angeles’ – an open wound of a song – makes for a surprisingly affecting set revival before a one-two punch to send us home that is befitting of the energy of the night as a whole. The skyscraping yell of ‘Headlong Into The Abyss’ – a title that gives you more than an idea about the gist of the song – is nevertheless usurped by breakout single and album stand-out ‘Chapel Song’. As a sea of flailing arms and bobbing heads seize the dying moments of this emotional outpouring of a concert, the addictive chime of the duel guitars and the snappy chorus lines leave us with no doubt that We Are Augustines are born entertainers. Whatever you may think of them, there is nothing but love for them in Academy 3 tonight.