We Are Augustines – The Arches, Glasgow, 07/10/12

It’s safe to say Scotland has embraced “We Are Augustines” into it’s whisky, Irn Bru and Buckfast filled bosom over the past year (a heady brew). A support slot with  Selkirk’s favourite sons “Frightened Rabbit” brought them to our attention, then an incendiary headline show at the ABC2 coupled with the sheer strength of their debut album “Rise Ye Sunken Ships” won them a place in our hearts. Follow this on with being one of the only shining lights in a dismal T in the Park line-up (along with Frank Turner) and it’s easy to see why the gig at The Arches tonight was sold out and moved earlier in the day to the bigger tunnel to make extra tickets available.

So it was with real excitement and genuine anticipation that we made our way through the crowded venue to get a better vantage point for “We Are Augustines” 9pm stage time. A little later than scheduled “The Instrumental” which is the  last track from their debut album sparked out over the PA system to be followed shortly after by the band to a raucous reception.

Cutting the PA they launched into the heavier band driven album version of “Philadelphia (The City of Brotherly Love)”. As Billy sung “soak your scars in the ocean” a Scottish choir was ready to join in at the appropriate moment with a loud chorus of “yeaaaaaaah”. It got the gig off to an electrifying start and you could already just tell it was going to be one of those nights, the perfect venue, perfect crowd, perfect band, if you could see the stars through the brick tunnel of The Arches I’m sure they would have been aligned and shining down in approval.

The between song banter started with Billy recalling both his own and Eric’s prior stage diving prowess while visiting Scotland and intimating that it should be drummer Rob’s turn this time out. The brilliant non album track “Ballad of a Patient Man” followed on and built to its repeated cacophony of screams of “as long as my heart keeps pumping blood”. Even though it isn’t on the album it too was met with enthusiastic singing by large sections of the crowd. Shouts of “Billy put your hat on” subsequently met the lead singer and as he lifted his somewhat battle worn fedora to his head a big cheer came from those concerned with his lack of headwear.  later in the gig Billy would tell us that “there is no rhyme or reason when the hat goes on or off. Sometimes I just go fuck it and put my hat on”. I for one am glad that it’s spontaneous and not pre meditated hat donning and  removal. But then it shouldn’t really be surprising, it is “We Are Augustines” we are talking about here where everything is genuine, sincere and done with big appreciative smiles on their faces.

“Strange Days” ran into a bullish driving version of “Juarez” with only a “how are you doing Scotland?” to separate the two. Billy then made a confession to us all saying “I hate doing this but i’m sick real bad, this is it, this is rock n roll i’ve got Berroca, I’ve got tea, I’ve got Jamesons and Irn bru and i’m gonna keep swinging as long as you guys will,  just don’t let me fall off”. The truth is if he hadn’t told us he was feeling under the weather no one would have noticed as his voice, enthusiasm and energy were never in doubt all night.

A brilliant rendition of “Augustine” was met with a mass sea of hands clapping along. Billy obviously feeling re-energised after the song thanked “the restorative powers of rock n roll” and asked “are there any other Scottish remedies I should know about?”. The obligatory shout from a Glasgow crowd of “Buckfast” had to come and did, well it wouldn’t be Glasgow if it didn’t, and it is TONIC wine after all.

Rob slunk off the side of the stage into the darkness leaving only Eric and Billy on stage to perform a beautiful version of “East Los Angeles” which he introduced by saying it was a dreamscape about looking out from an LA hotel room. As the guitar strummed Billy’s impassioned gruff howl of “yeeeeaaaaah” near the end of the song had everyone In the venue delicately balanced in the palm of his hand.

One girl in particular couldn’t hold back any more shouting “Billy you’re a hottie” to which she was no doubt happy to receive the answer “that sounds really good in that accent”.  “Rise Ye Sunken Ships” is another song that didn’t make the the cut for the album, but obviously did provide it’s name. It used to be a perennial set opener for the band and tonight saw them at their loudest and most Springsteen-esque. Probably the two heaviest songs of the night were played back to back as the pounding punk sounding almost “Clash” like “Patton State Hospital” followed with the guitars and drums swelling to a clattering climax.

Moving to the front of the stage and receiving loud cheers of appreciation as he did so, Billy again thanked the crowd and said how nice it was to be here before playing a truly heartbreaking version of “Barrel of Leaves”. Written about his brother lyrically it touches on the subject of being there but powerless to do anything about the situation someone you love is in with the lyrics “when you fall from the sky I’ll bring you barrels of leaves, but it would never soften your fall, or ever help you at all”. A shout of “Beautiful” rang out from a member of the audience and it truly was a magical gig moment, full of honesty, sincerity and true emotion.

Before the military drumming of the penultimate song of the main set “Headlong Into The Abyss” kicked in Billy alluded to his afore mentioned illness by saying “This is a crazy night, it’s gonna hurt tomorrow but not tonight”. Obviously wanting to see the crowd before playing the utterly infectious and anthemic “Book of James” Billy said “I like this venue but I don’t like how dark it is, mr sound man could you turn up the lights please”. As the lights flashed on to full beam on the packed room some boo’s were audible as it was announced this was the last song. All was forgotten though as the whole of The Arches swayed in unison and sang “and here lies, my green eyes, rolled back in my head, but they’re alive”. Leaving the stage to deafening tumultuous applause and hollering from the crowd, a heavy droning was left pouring out of the speakers for the duration of their absence.

They returned triumphantly to even louder cheers than they exited. However their declaration that this was their “last tour till next year”, brought some more light hearted boo’s ringing out around the venue, given 1) that it is October and 2) that they’ve been touring for about a year and a half, personally I think they are more than entitled to some time off to recuperate and hopefully write that second album.

As they have been doing on this tour the band then played the stripped back alternate version of “Philadephia”. Billy told us “I know it was at the beginning of the set but there’s two versions and this is maybe the last time we’ll be playing it this way”. Both versions are stunning in their own right and this version again had the crowd singing the words back to the band with all the air left in their lungs.

Taking the time again to thank us all for our continued support Billy gave a heartfelt speech saying “I love you people for giving a shit about what we’re doing, thank you so much  it doesn’t fall on deaf ears”. They’ve undoubtedly got great songs but it’s this sense of community and appreciation of the fans along with those great songs that ultimately make “We Are Augustines” such a great band. It’s what makes you root for them, it’s why you give a shit, it does feel like there’s more to it than just turning up to a concert.

“Chapel Song” was welcomed in with the biggest cheers of the night so far, it raced and built through the sleigh bells and tambourines to the repeated chants of “tear up the photograph! ’cause it’s a bright blue sky”. The extended jam outro saw Billy fall to his knees and play an impromptu piece of slide guitar with his microphone stand before lying back on the stage still playing. Getting together centre stage to revel in the deafening applause the band took their bows as if it was the end. It seemed however that they along with everyone else in the venue were having too much fun to call it a night just yet.

Billy shouted, “We’ve got one more will you sing with us?”, as if he really needed to ask, the shouts of “woooooooh  ohhhhhhh” at the end of “New Drink for the Old Drunk” continued well after they reluctantly left the stage for the second time with a “Thank you Glasgow, thank you so much for everything”. The double encore didn’t quite materialise but the band did return yet again to meet fans at the front of the stage. You got the feeling never mind illness they would have played all night even If they had to play every song twice  if the venue would have allowed them to.

I left The Arches with a stupid childish grin on my face and not one but bits of 14 songs swirling around my head, while the band left the venue with “a pocket full of handshakes” that do mean something.  It was one of those special gigs, by one of those special bands, “We Are Augustines” Scotland loves you, I’m sure everyone at the gig tonight hopes you come back in the not too distant future with songs from that new album. Barrowlands next time maybe?

The Instrumental

1) Philadelphia
2) Ballad of a Patient Man
3) Strange Days
4) Juarez
5) Augustine
6) East Los Angeles
7) Rise Ye Sunken Ships
8) Patton State Hospital
9) Barrel of Leaves
10) Headlong Into The Abyss
11) Book of James
12) Philadelphia (Alternate Version)
13) Chapel Song
14) New Drink for the Old Drunk

Ross Cunningham

Brilliant pics and video of “New Drink for the Old Drunk” courtesy of  Julia Stryj you can check out more of her work here, thanks Julia


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