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Augustana

Thursday, Feb. 1, 2007

Avalon

This was an unusual concert. If the audience had come for an enthusiastic, hyped show, then they should have left after the opening acts. Those who left feeling satisfied, on the other hand, were those looking for familiar old songs along with previews of new songs on their upcoming album. For a band still working to build up a solid fanbase, Augustana performed surprisingly many new songs. All the Stars and Boulevards came out over a year ago without much success until recently, leaving the group plenty of time to work on new material. Other new songs that the band played that night, "Cocaine" and "Either Way I'll Break your Heart Someday," had a fresh and lighter sound that will hopefully be represented on their next album.

The opening acts also offered a pleasant surprise. Vega 4, a four-member band featuring members from Ireland, New Zealand, and Canada had a metallic sound, which combined well with the lead's contrasting operatic voice and deep vibrato. His maturity provided a welcome change from the previous act, in which the boy-bandish Zac Clark was only ordinary.

When the stars of the night finally approached the stage and casually tuned up their instruments without a word to the crowd before beginning their show, no "HELLO BOSTON" was needed; the familiar chords of "Stars and Boulevards" striking the ears of the audience immediately brought forth cheers and forgiveness for the delayed opening. As the song came to a close, the members smoothly transitioned into another song from their debut album.

It was only after the third song that the audience finally got a greeting out of the guitarist — a mellow "Hey, we're called Augustana." A brief introduction to their new song, "Heart Shaped Gun," led straight into more music; Augustana had energy, but only for their music; the band engaged the crowd through their music and spent little time on banter. One of the few things the band uttered that night was an apology for their lack of speech, saying that they were not intentionally trying to be "emo" — resulting in sincere laughs from the crowd.

As the lead singer switched from electric guitar to acoustic to harmonica to keyboard, he showcased his and the band's talent; that in itself was enough to make the majority of females in the audience consider becoming full-out groupies.

The sold-out show packed almost 2000 fans into Avalon, many of whom had waited in line before doors even opened to claim their spot in the standing-room only venue. Dan Layus, lead vocalist, acknowledged the band's nerves in front of the large crowd their first headlining tour had drawn: "I really hope you're having a good time. I feel like we're responsible." Drummer Justin South marked the milestone, saying, "I think in the last two or three months, it's really like the fruits of the labor are coming." Judging from the size of the crowd, he was right.

By being included on the soundtrack of One Tree Hill and opening for The Fray and the Goo Goo Dolls, Augustana has become its own lead attraction. The night culminated with a performance of their hit song "Boston." Fans enthusiastically sang along and many tried to capture the moment forever with cameras held high. The crowd that night, packed from wall to wall, got to experience a genuine show that didn't seem much like a concert but more like a day sitting in on a band practicing in their very own (very full) basement. There were no obnoxious crowd-pleasing lines; just four members, old and new, playing music, feeling the music, and feeling connected to each other.