Augustana – Boise

6.9.11

Augustana

Review by Debra Touchette

Watch the band Augustana perform and you know — these boys can’t believe their luck. They get to create and share music for a living, and they love it. Even after a month on the road and seven years since the release of their first album, they are more than a band. They are four guys thrilled to share their music with the world, and the energetic and appreciative audience at the band’s June 9th show at the Knitting Factory was certainly lucky to watch them play.

The band had the crowd in the palms of their hands. Their first song was the single “Steal Your Heart,” a Killers-esque anthem from their newest album Augustana. The song was followed by a shout-out to the home crowd and home team, the only banter in a nearly hour-long set that balanced new and old songs.  Watching Dan Layus, Jared Palomar, Chris Sachtlben, Justin South, and Andy Breihan play, you knew this wasn’t just another night on the road or that, for the concert-goers, this was just  something to do in Boise on a Thursday night. This was a community of good friends and good music.

Near the end of their set, the band invited tour mates The Maine and up-and-comer Austin Gibbs and band on stage to play Tom Petty’s “Walls.” Fifteen dudes, an abundance of tambourines — it was like one of those jams in college, in the basement of someone’s dorm, friends coming together to play music and have fun.

The band brought the audience further in thrall with their first hit, “Boston,” which began with just Layus at the piano. He cleverly worked Boise into the lyrics, singing, “a couple of good people showed up to watch me and my friends.” His friends joined him to finish out the song and then the set,  with the song “On the Other Side,” and a promise to return to Idaho.

*

Like a lot of people, I found Augustana through their breakout hit “Boston.” Songs like “I Still Ain’t Over You” and “Sweet and Low” have found their way onto nearly every break-up recovery, need-to-heal mix CD I’ve made in the last few years. The tracks for the band’s first two CDs are polished, sometimes delicate. They highlight Layus’s vocals, first with piano and guitar, then filling out with the other instruments as they reach their emotional crescendos.

Their latest, self-titled release eschews the vibe that earned comparisons to Counting Crows and the Wallflowers for a chunkier sound more suited to clubs than cafés. According to bassist Jared Palomar, this shift was a deliberate attempt to capture the live feel of the band. It’s less polish and more passion. Palomar says that this is why they chose to self title their latest effort — it is, he feels, the piece that most closely captures what Augustana is as a band. While they are proud of the work they’ve done previously, each a snapshot of a time, this album represents a growth, from 19- and 20-year-old college kids to a band that has grown up, a band that learned by touring and writing and recording, who they are.

Palomar also attributes creative growth to time on the road, meeting new people and seeing new places. He says a lot of their music begins on the road as they jam with the bands with whom they share a stage and tour buses. Ideas percolate, and the musicians feed off one another’s creative energy, challenge each other to reach for newer, better and bigger ideas, ideas which are then refined at home and in the studio.

When asked if, after all this time on the road, there is anything he misses or anything that still surprises him, Palomar says that this tour has been one of the best tours. He says the bands meshed right from the beginning. When asked if there is anything he’d never been asked  but wanted to say, he says that really, he’s fortunate to be touring and working with his best friends.

The evident camaraderie and the joy with which they performed is no act. It is easy to see why fans come back to every Boise show and even travel to Seattle or Portland to catch performances. I will definitely be among the crowd when they return to Idaho.

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