Brooklyn-based indie rockers Augustines, formally We Are Augustines, played their final show of a short European tour at Camden’s Roundhouse in support of their eponymous second studio album. Starting the show with tracks from their debut Rise Ye Sunken Ships, the Billy McCarthy-led trio opened with Headlong Into The Abyss before launching into fan-favourite Chapel Song which featured in Curt Morgan’s 2011 hit snowboarding film The Art of Flight.
Although the roots of this band come from the ashes of Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson’s former band Pela (and a battle to get out their debut record the way it was intended), it’s difficult to ignore that the tone of some of tracks are heavily influenced by the personal struggles and tragedies in the life of McCarthy who, along with his younger brother James, was taken into foster care due to the drug use of his mother. McCarthy subsequently learned of his brother’s suicide before their debut was complete, an event which led to Augustines’ first UK single Book of James. You can’t help but be moved by the autobiographical chanting lines in Juarez: “I got a drunk for a mother, got a saint for a brother”.
Known for their energetic shows and McCarthy’s banter with the crowd, Augustines’ Monday-night Roundhouse debut was no different. Arriving on stage shrouded in shadows, he bounded across the stage to his microphone on the left but tore away from it at every opportunity. As the set went on the lights came up and McCarthy went on to share anecdotes with the crowd. “This is perfect, last show of the year”. As he struggled with his microphone stand he asked about the Roundhouse venue “didn’t The Doors play here?”
Threatening us with their last song, the indefatigable front man requested the house be lit and then challenged all to make some noise and break the decibel record set by screaming audiences during previous shows on the tour. After a disappointing first attempt he asked the sound engineer to hold up fingers to indicate if the decibel count set in Cardiff could be bettered, which the London throng ensured they did. And McCarthy gave back in kind declaring “If I lose my voice in London, I don’t care. It’s a good place to leave it!”
After Cruel City the band left the main area to reappear in the balcony section of the circular venue between rows of seated fans. The crowd turned to face their new stage and the band played stripped-down versions of tracks The Avenue and Now You Are Free before closing this section of the show with Book of James.
They then returned to the main stage for another dynamic range of material before once again disappearing. This time reappearing on a slightly raised platform in the middle, to cheers from the Roundhouse audience who had thought the show was over, for another stripped-back acoustic set.
McCarthy pointed out the video camera that had been following the band around, capturing the entirety of the show. “Did I tell you we’re in a film? It’s called ‘Live – The Story of Augustines’”. The band seemed genuinely grateful and ecstatic to be among their fans and playing their biggest headline set in London to date.
Back to the main stage for night-closer New Drink for the Old Drunk and as the end of the song drew near the frontman addressed his audience: “Last verse of the last song of the last show of the last tour. Let’s sing! F*** Monday night!”
There’s something reminiscent of a young Bruce Springsteen in the breadth of Augustines’ story-telling material as well as McCarthy’s tone and ability to enrapture the ever-increasing attendees at their shows. The energy you’re left feeling full of as you leave the auditorium is something missing from many live acts on the scene today but something plentiful with an Augustines show.
Photography & Review by Kalpesh Patel. Augustines live at Roundhouse, London. December 8th