LIVE REVIEW: Augie March @ The Lansdowne, Sydney

Augie March, Ro @ The Lansdowne, Sydney 26th May 2018

Augie March’s recently released Bootikins album has found the group in fine form, balancing the art and the emotion of their music to resounding effect. It shows on stage too  a band in union and musical communion, relaxed and confident and bathing in the warm glow of fandom from the Lansdowne audience.

Earlier in the evening, Sydney singer/songwriter Ro (aka Rowena Wise). Solo with electric guitar, she captivated the swelling crowd with songs that sat between ornate folk and melancholic indie. They inhabit that sweet spot between ambitious writing and the awareness of the power of simple ear-catching melody. The music of Courtney Marie Andrews came to mind when listening to Ro’s impressive set.

IMG_3125Opening with The Hole In Your Roof, Augie March immediately set the sonic tone for the evening. A crystalline sound mix with Glenn Richards’ voice front and centre and the band musically in simpatico with each other. In years gone by, Richards’ live performances have sometimes been frustrating and distracting but tonight he was at the top of his game. His voice has never sounded better, negotiating screes of words and cascading choirboy melodies, and he had a warm, self-deprecating and hilarious line in banter, often with drummer David Williams, between songs. The rest of the band got about their business, whether it was the freight train rhythm and roll of This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers, delicate musical backdrops such as The Slant (featuring Ro on violin) or gentle hymnal sounds of The Night Is A Blackbird. Augmented by a brass trio, they created a huge ocean swell of sound when required, surging choruses that recalled similar aspirations of The Saints. Bootikins material fared exceptionally well with When I Am Old and Bitter Clingerzz particular standouts. Their command of dynamics mean they can transition from a bristling rock sound to sublime intimacy at a moment’s notice.

They know that a show would be incomplete without a couple of songs in particular and they did them justice, inciting audience accompaniment on the iconic One Crowded Hour and the beauty of There Is No Such Place. Each time Augie March reemerge with a new album there are murmurs that it might be the last, but on the strength of the spirit and music on display tonight they would do well to banish any such thoughts and keep bathing in the creative glow they appear to be currently relishing.

Chris Familton

INTERVIEW: Augie March

6c426d_0bb65904b4c7435696601b0095bfc888~mv2

THE ABSURDITY OF CALIGULA

From his home in Hobart, Glenn Richards has a revealing conversation with Chris Familton about the life and times of Augie March, why he is proud of their new album and the challenge of combining intelligence and humour in songwriting.

Augie March are a band that have had their fair share of ups and downs, lost chances and a hiatus. The latest chapter in their now two decade career is a resurgent return to form. Previously it was a cautious re-emergence with the inconsistent Havens Dumb, a “regrouping” as songwriter Richards calls it. This time around they “got the groundwork done a bit better so it’s a stronger record in that sense, and in the songwriting too.” Richards emphasises that he’s “proud of this one, it has good energy which is often lacking when a band gets on in years. If anything there was an emphasis on not over-cluttering which we were prone to do in the past”

The album in question is Bootikins, the band’s sixth and it holds its own among their finest releases. after the touring cycle for Havens Dumb ended in disappointment. “It just kind of petered out which was a bit disappointing. I got stuck into other stuff – film scores and TV work, which I was quite happy doing. Then I found myself writing specifically to record to four-track and it brought back the fun and excitement for recording in that fashion and led to a couple of little purple patches that sounded like songs I could do with the band.”

As the songs were being written, Richards began to see a concept of sorts emerging, one where “an absurdly exaggerated version of myself was having rein in the lyric writing,” he explains. “I was becoming aware of something thematic, the awfulness of the the narrative in some of the songs, the ridiculousness as well. The apex of that was the song Bootikins – putting myself in the shoes of Albert Camus’ Caligula, not just an awful caricature but an intelligent, sensitive Caligula who is rapidly turning. It was a good excuse to write a ragged, retro rock song and try and convey the menace and absurdity of that character. It neatly tied up lots of the efforts I was making to get that across in some of the other songs. It was also a funny name to call an album!” laughs Richards.

Humour isn’t something that often gets mentioned when discussing Augie March but there’s a strong comedic streak in much of Richards’ writing that deserves greater acknowledgement. “I’ve always had the struggle to convince people that there’s a sense of humour there. I can hear it in my own voice, I just don’t convey it enough in the singing. Maybe because I have something of a choirboy voice. It’s getting rougher, maybe one day I’ll have my Nick Cave moment,” he says wryly.

The band were lucky to work with legendary Australian producer Tony Cohen, prior to his death in 2017. One of his strengths was to get the band in a room and let them play together and feed off each other. “While all of that was happening he was setting up his universe on the 24-channel desk and experimenting with certain kinds of effects on faders. He needed help on a big desk so we all got involved doing things. He essentially memorised stuff and was only satisfied when he got the mix where all the moves happened.”

Casting an eye back over a critically acclaimed career, Richards is circumspect and open about where the band missed opportunities and had others taken away from them. “We always wanted to make actual records and the chances that you get to do that are pretty slim. We were at the tail end of the dinosaur era in terms of big record contracts and it worked against us ultimately because we got stuck on a label that we didn’t really sign to,” he reveals. “To be honest, I don’t think the effort really matched the ambition along the way, we fell short in a number of ways and we had some bad luck too. I’m not sure how long we’ll be able to keep doing it. It’s about the other guys and their personal circumstances. We’ve got one more for now and it seems to be a pretty good one so we’ll see. I’d love to take this music to Europe for the first time. It’s ridiculous we never got over there. I could still do that but I’d probably have to look at taking some different guys over with me because of families and so on.”

REVIEW: AUGIE MARCH @ Metro Theatre, Sydney (17/07/09)

AugieReviewed for LiveGuide.

The Watch Me Set My Strange Sun You Bloody Choir tour is billed as a bit of a retrospective look at the work to date of Augie March and it serves as a closing chapter on the first volume of the band’s career. As singer Glenn Richards announced towards the end of their set, this is the last tour for a few years as the band spends some time apart to pursue other projects before re-convening with fresh ideas and motivation. Something akin to flogging a dead horse is what Richards seemed to be alluding to.

Supporting Augie March on the tour is Gareth Liddiard and Dan Luscombe from The Drones. Performing as a duo, they couldn’t really be classified as acoustic due to Luscombe’s electric guitar playing on some songs. They were stripped down and devoid of a rhythm section and Liddiard’s slashing electric guitar but the howling intensity and drama still remained.

Featuring songs from most of their records, ‘Cold And Sober’, ‘Shark Fin Blues’, ‘Jezebel’ and ‘Your Acting’s Like The End Of The World’ were all highlights and it was impressive how Liddiard could still deliver the songs with neck bulging venom and not overpower the more minimal instrumentation. Luscombe switched between guitars and some sublime piano touches that added yet another layer to the sound of the songs.

Their set showed that whether they are raging with electricity or framing the songs in less abrasive sounds, it is the lyrics and quality of songwriting that remains strong and true. The Drones in any form are still the best Australian band recording and performing at the moment.

Augie March have risen to inhabit an interesting position. They straddle the nerdy indie world, the more mainstream audience of Triple J and outwardly they project an image and sound that commercial radio and television like because it is relatively harmless. As a result it was a mixed audience of Sydney’s indie musical contemporaries, and that cross section of fans.

Early on they stepped back to their first album Sunset Studies to play ‘The Hole In Your Roof’ with its rising melodies and strong Jeff Buckley influence. Near the end of the show they brought things first circle by returning to the same album for ‘There Is No Such Place’, one of their most beautiful songs with its simple acoustic feel and lullaby shuffle.

The rest of their set took in all four of their records and showed the full scope of their songwriting and styles. They have always excelled at the slow pretty songs that have made them so popular, but under the surface there is a darker subtext to Richards writing and the desire for the band to stretch out and incorporate other elements.

The best example of that darker side was the final track ‘Clockwork’ which saw them stretch out and flex their musical muscles on the long and grinding penultimate track from Moo You Bloody Choir. The sound grew with bassist Ed Ammendola driving the song deeper and deeper while looking like he was wrestling his instrument.

The presence of a horn section was both a blessing and a curse and it was surprising how many songs they played on, a good half if not two thirds of the set. On some songs it added a great Dexys Midnight Runners vibe and energy but at other times they seemed superfluous to the music. Almost as if they feel that a horn section is a pre-requisite at this point of their career.

Glenn Richards still remains the focus of the band so it will be interesting to see what he does next in terms of solo projects. Live he is notorious for swerving between moments of mistakes and patches of brilliance and at The Metro he provided both. His voice strained on some notes and there were lyrical memory lapses as well as microphone and guitar frustrations. Perhaps due to the pending hiatus he seemed to brush those minor problems aside and didn’t let them affect the overall performance.

So Augie March say goodbye, for now at least. This gig showed their many personalities and one hopes that next time round they will ditch the horn section, return to the core sound of the band and focus on serving the songs and building that swirling sound around Richards voice with even darker beauty.

NEWS: 2009 SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS lineup…

picture-2

SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS 2009 – 1ST LINEUP
Bloc Party (in their ONLY Australian show), The Flaming Lips, Jane’s Addiction, MGMT (also in their ONLY Australian show), Hilltop Hoods, Grinspoon, Midnight Juggernauts, The Specials, Sarah Blasko, Augie March, Josh Pyke, Friendly Fires, Little Birdy, Birds Of Tokyo, The Gutter Twins, Manchester Orchestra, Yuksek, Bob Evans, White Lies, Kram, Yves Klein Blue, Decoder Ring, Lost Valentinos, Leader Cheetah, Jack Ladder, The Middle East, Polaroid Fame and Glass Towers

SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS 2009 TICKET PRICES
Event ticket:  $240.00 (inc gst) + bf
Carbon Offset Ticket: $245.95  (inc gst) + bf
Camping ticket: $132.00  (inc gst) + bf

TICKETS ON SALE
9.00am sharp on Thursday May 14th – Internet sales only – http://www.qjump.com.au

SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS 2009
Sat July 25th and Sunday July 26th
Belongil Fields,
Byron Bay

NEWS: BYRON BAY BLUESFEST 2009 Line-up…

lucinda_l

The first run of acts for the Byron Bay Bluesfest 2009 Blues & Roots Festival has been announced.

Leading the pack is Ben Harper and Michael Franti and Spearhead (surprise, surprise). These guys must surely be honorary Australians by now.

Of the other acts, the most notable inclusions in the humble opinion of Doubtful Sounds is Drive By Truckers, Tinariwen, Seasick Steve and Lucinda Williams.  There are many Lucinda fans that were gutted when she cancelled her tour a few years back due to the death of her mother.  Fingers crossed we get sideshows for these and other acts in Sydney and other parts of Australia and New Zealand.

The full line up announced so far is:

Ben Harper and Relentless7, John Butler Trio, Missy Higgins, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Lucinda Williams, Zappa Plays Zappa, Angelique Kidjo, Tinariwen, Eric Bibb, Seasick Steve, Tony Joe White, Ruthie Foster, Blind Boys Of Alabama, Drive-By Truckers, Toni Childs, Ayo, Luka Bloom, Alpha Blondy, The Easy Allstars, Special Beat, Watermelon Slim & The Workers, The Easy All Stars, Special Beat, Augie March, Alabama, Blue King Brown, Saltwater Band, Sonny Landreth, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Hot Club of Cowtown, Eugene Hideaway Bridges, The Bamboos, Watussi, Lowrider, Nu Yorican Nights, Benny Gallagher, Bob Log III., Lowrider, Nu Yorican Nights.

The 20th anniversary of the festival takes place on the 9-13th April 2009 at Belongil Fields and full info on tickets, camping etc can be found at www.bluesfest.com.au

Drive By Truckers: