Sunday, July 19, 2009

Augie March - Hi Fi Bar Brisbane

I posted this review to Faster Louder as a taste of my work. Hopefully they'll like it and I'll get a few reviews out of it

Augie March have built a solid reputation for unpredictable gigs over the past 10 or so years. Depending on the collective will of the band, the room and the punters, gigs can swing between self-indulgent pap teetering on the edge of disaster (led by frontman Glenn Richard's overt perfectionism) to achingly gorgeous moments of holding a room in complete silence and awe. Tonight's gig at Brisbane's new(ish) house of music, The Hi Fi Bar, swung more towards the latter as the band set about wrapping up its story to this point with the aptly titled Watch Me Set My Strange Sun You Bloody Choir tour (a mashup of album and previous tour titles).

First up, however, The Drone's main men Gareth Liddiard and Dan Luscombe get a chance to warm up the PA in this yet-to-be-finished room amidst the usual pre-gig chattering. The two men bounce off each other with great harmonies and superb licks, and manage to bottle the almost infamous on-stage intensity of The Drones. Liddiard was even spied sporting a smile or two as they ripped through the list of songs showcasing the raw bones of what makes The Drones tick, with the low intimate feel almost making it feel like you were eavesdropping on their weekly jam sessions.

Warm applause acknowledged their existence as the curtain drew on the support act and preparations were made for the main. The room was nowhere near capacity as the curtain drew back after a short wait and the band sauntered on for what was being touted as their last full-scale Brisbane gig for some time. Early signs pointed towards another horrendous gig, however, as Glenn grimaced at some unheard and unseen misdemeanour from drummer David Williams in the first few bars of There's Something At The Bottom Of The Black Pool. It wasn't to be, however, as the band kicked in well during the difficult middle section of this gem from their second album Strange Bird and set the tone for the evening: a fan-pleasing romp through their impressive back-catalogue. Only 4 of the 16 songs in the set list were, in fact, from their newest albums (2006 breakthrough Moo, You Bloody Choir and this year's Watch Me Disappear). This may have been due to a fan-led song poll on their website leading up to this tour, but the up-beat mood of the band indicated the trip down memory lane was also their intention with this swan-song tour. Early highlights were peppy The Offer (from Sunset Studies) juxtaposed with the mournful and bass-driven Dogsday from the new album, showing not only the journey this band has managed, but also a glimpse of where their sound could go should they choose to continue.

A deserving champion towards the middle of the set, and the traditional quieter moments, was the superb crystal sound of The Hi Fi Bar itself. While the walls and decor may still be some way from being completed, the all-important sound system was given its moment in the sun with such an intimate sound from the Augies. A solid 4-song middle section drew heavily on their sombre and noodling moments, with each nuance from guitarist Adam Donovan and keyboardist Keirnen Box clearly transmitted to all areas of the venue. It may not sound like much, but for Brisbane punters having to endure walls of feedback and muddy mixes at their well established music institutions, the impact of this simple technical milestone should not be sneezed at. The recent establishment of the venue was commented upon by Glenn as a sign of the city's bravery and love of music, a speech which segued perfectly into the obligatory One Crowded Hour - conspicuously played not begrudgingly this time around - and the rare Just Passing Through to finish out the set. A 3-song encore had the band unleash the jamming beasts, as they worked through classics Hole In Your Roof and finished with the building and driving momentum of Clockwork to round out the characteristically unpredictable gig.


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