Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Augie March gig [29th August 2009 @ The Forum]

I have lost count of the number of times I have seen Victorian band Augie March live, but it must be getting close to ten now. The last time I saw them was over three years ago, back in May 2006 at the Hi-Fi Bar (read my review). While the Hi-Fi Bar is possibly one of my least favourite venues in Melbourne, The Forum is my absolute favourite venue. Talk about both ends of the venue spectrum! I have a dream that one day all Melbourne concerts will be at The Forum, as impractical as that dream is.

Anyway, I went along to this Saturday night gig (another bonus!) with MarkP and MattyT, two of my regular gig-attending buddies. We listened to the support act of Gareth Liddiard and Dan Luscombe (of The Drones fame) while sinking back a few drinks. The duo were fairly raw and stripped-back, but not particularly amazing. The highlight was probably a raw version of their classic song Shark fin blues from their excellent (but not concisely titled) 2005 album Wait long by the river and the bodies of your enemies will float by. All in all, a decent set, but nothing to write home about.

Shortly after, Augie March took to the stage. When attending gigs we always play the game of trying to guess the opening and closing songs. We all put in our votes for what we thought the opening number would be, and it ended up being a bit of a trick question -- the band entered the stage to what appeared to be a mash-up of the beautiful instrumental O mi sol li lon (from Strange bird) and the semi-instrumental Believe me (from their debut Sunset studies).

But their first song proper was the stunningly epic The hole in your roof (also from their debut). Considering this was advertised as more of a "career overview" tour (with the album-mashing tour title of Watch Me Set My Strange Sun You Bloody Choir), starting with the opening song from their debut album was very appropriate. This is especially the case because for many fans, this would have been the first Augie March song that they heard.

The remainder of the gig lived up to its premise, covering a great cross-section of their 4-album (and 2-EP) discography. Interestingly, the set list seemed to slightly favour their earlier albums Sunset studies and Strange birds which suited me just fine as they were definitely their career peaks.

They only included four songs from their most recent album Watch me disappear, which may give an indication of how they feel about that lushly-produced yet slightly over-commercial album. Other than that, vintage classics (Maroondah reservoir, The offer, There is no such place) sat nicely alongside some of their more experimental works (There's something at the bottom of the black pool, Brundisium) and more popular recent offerings (The cold acre, Pennywhistle).

There were several gig highlights for me. The first was a significantly slowed-down version of their Pogues-esque hoedown This train will be taking no passengers, which took me almost a minute to identify. This is a classic song in its original Strange bird version, but hearing this version blew my mind. The original song chugs along at the speed of its titular train, but in this slowed down version you could actually understand the lyrics (and they are sheer bloody poetry). It was also another way to appreciate Glenn Richards' fine vocals; he truly is one of the finest contemporary vocallists and listening to him (and the rest of the band) makes me incredibly happy that we have such talent in our country.

The second highlight was even more unexpected. As I said earlier, I have seen Augie March many times now, but they had yet to play my favourite song Owen's lament (the stunning Sunset studies closer which was also recently included in my list of favourite songs of all time). Near the end of the gig I turned to MattyT and told him that I would lose one of my redundant body parts to hear that song live. Shortly after saying that, they played it and it was a truly wonderful gig moment.

Other highlights included a fan throwing an oversized pair of underpants on to the stage, which bassist Edmond Ammendola proceeded to wear (albeit over his clothing), much to the amusement of the crowd. And of course there was also the amusing banter between frontman Glenn Richards and drummer Dave Williams (the "funny one") which is always an excellent counter-point to the stunning music at every Augie March gig.

Glenn Richards introduced the final song of the gig (in the 2nd encore) by stating "I hate this song". It was of course One crowded hour, their commercial breakthrough (and winner of the Triple J hottest 100 in 2006) which has since become their musical albatross in much the way that Creep was for Radiohead in the mid-late 90s. It's definitely a fan favourite, but you could see the band were playing it more to avoid a riot than anything else. Commercial success is always a double-edged sword.

This was probably one of the best Augie March gigs I have attended -- there were stunning performances all around, Glenn seemed really happy and content (sometimes coming across as a brooding "poet" type) and there were lots of surprises, from both a musical and entertainment perspective.

Long live Augie March, and long live The Forum.

Bootleg media

I have included a few photos (+ video) taken by myself, and a few photos taken by Mark (who took much better photos than me!).

Dave caught with his drumstick in mid-air (not a double entendre).

Glenn in the spotlight.

Glenn and lead guitarist Adam Donovan in action.
[Photo courtesy of MarkP]

Adam Donovan in deep concentration.
[Photo courtesy of MarkP]

Multi-instrumentalist Kieran Box playing the accordion.
[Photo courtesy of MarkP]

Glenn and the mini-orchestra.
[Photo courtesy of MarkP]

The band performing "The keepa" from their superb Strange bird album.

This will be my last post for a while as I'm about to embark on a 5 week holiday in Europe.

Au revoir! Auf wiedersehen! Ciao!

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