Augustana – Rams Head, Baltimore – May 2011

31May11

Guest blog! This review was written by reader mobic

Augustana is my favorite wuss rock band. Yeah, it could be classified as mushy “chick music,” but I just love the piano-driven sentimental songs, the emotional ballads, and the unique voice of Dan Layus. But, like the music turtle, I miss the heavy guitars we heard from some of their earlier songs like ‘Hotel Roosevelt’ and ‘Bullets’. That’s why I was anxious to hear the new (released in April 2011) self-entitled album and experience it live.

This was the third Augustana show my wife and I had attended. The first was opening for O.A.R. at Red Rocks following the success of All the Stars & Boulevards. The second was an incredible performance at the intimate Gothic Theatre in Englewood, CO shortly after the April 2008 release of Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt. This third show was at Ram’s Head Live! in downtown Baltimore. The venue is a huge, three-tiered warehouse. If you ever go to see a show at Ram’s Head Live!, make sure you’re either on the ground level in front of the band or along the second floor balcony. The unusual acoustics of the venue can muffle and distort the sound if you’re hanging out anywhere else. We walked in as soon as opening act The Maine started to the shrieks and screams of 14-year-old girls. The Maine wasn’t bad – catchy, poppy tunes you find yourself tapping your foot to. I could have done with fewer high schoolers and less talk from the lead singer about the “vibe” in the room. But we were there to see Augustana…

…who started off with a jammin’ cover of ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’, and ‘Boston’ in an apparent attempt to keep some of The Maine fans from leaving the show. Then, the band took ‘Fire’, a slow, soulful song from Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt, and sped it up to create an upbeat tune. From there, it was re-worded version of the hit ‘Sweet and Low’ (which seemed a bit contrived) and a clumsy version of ‘Stars & Boulevards’. After the darker, classic version of ‘Dust’, Augustana got rolling with a slow-tempo version of ‘Still Ain’t Over You’.

The band then played a large chunk of their new album, which was reminiscent of the 80’s. ‘Just Stay Here Tonight’ sounded like it could have been a Fleetwood Mac song, which isn’t too surprising considering Augustana’s impressive cover of ‘Dreams’. You’ll start hearing ‘Steal Your Heart’ all over the place if you haven’t already. ‘Wrong Side of Love’ may have been inspired by Bruce Springsteen. ‘On the Other Side’ brightened things up and sounded like some of their earlier material. ‘Counting the Stars’ was a bit folksier, maybe the Tom Petty song of the album. Then ‘Hurricane’ chilled things out nicely before the encore. I got a kick out of Layus “scolding” the crowd for asking for an encore after a 14-song set. Augustana wrapped it all up with ’20 Years’, a classic emo ballad with sweeping strings, and a sing along with The Maine for some more new stuff, including ‘Shot in the Dark’.

Overall, Augustana is a great band with a distinctive style. In concert, they generally do a good job in changing the tempo of your favorite songs, creating a unique, yet familiar, experience. I would have loved to heard them go acoustic on a couple of songs – either ’20 Years’ or ‘Sunday Best’.

mobic recommends: If you like Augustana at all, go see them live – the smaller, more intimate the venue, the better.

Ever been to an Augustana concert? Comment below

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3 Responses to “Augustana – Rams Head, Baltimore – May 2011”

  1. thanks dude! the new album is great…i’ll definitely be writing about it someday

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