On The List :: Augustines and Frightened Rabbit @ Webster Hall [10.25.13]

This review runs first and with great photographs from Sean O'Kane at Bowery Presents House List blog.

Frightened Rabbit and Augustines are nearly mirror images of each other: one Scottish, one raised in the wilds of Brooklyn, each driven to find salvation in ripping guitar-drum-and-bass rock songs. Augustines frontman Billy McCarthy, who is leading the third iteration of the band once known as Pela and then We Are Augustines before landing on their current nomenclature, admitted as much at a sold-out Webster Hall on Friday night, when they opened for their Scottish counterparts. “I’m gonna miss them so goddamn much,” warbled McCarthy about Frightened Rabbit in his trademark gravel-flecked baritone. The parallels were obvious under the sweeping stage lights, both groups pitting themselves firmly against the forces of modernity, trying to recapture a world of unfiltered misery and saviors, a time when people loved people enough to be destroyed by them.

There wasn’t an ounce of irony in either band. Augustines played “Cruel City,” a song about being miserable in New York City, and the single from their upcoming second full-length, and McCarthy yelled, “That was for you!” to wild applause. The audience didn’t exactly come for misery, but rather to experience the redemptive power of an emotive past, to bathe in the pain of others for whatever that would be worth. As if unifying their purpose, Scott Hutchinson, lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, joined Augustines on “Headlong into the Abyss,” a song that either band could have penned.

Frightened Rabbit took the stage backed by their monstrous half-crucifix-half-telephone-poll backdrop that has become the band’s iconography. While the saving was strictly lyrical, a fan in the 10th row stared down Hutchinson and mouthed every word to the opener, “Holy,” seemingly unaware of the other 1,500 people in attendance. Frightened Rabbit followed the tune about divinity and personal failings with “Modern Leper,” another vaguely biblical reference and the song that broke the band firmly into mainstream indie rock six years ago.

The band sounded explosive and tight, marching through “Nothing Like You” and “Living in Colour” before playing one of their first releases, “Old Old Fashioned.” “This is a dancing song,” said Hutchinson, the arrangement’s sea-shanty chord progression erupting from the fret board on his guitar. Of course, it wasn’t just a dancing song—it was about getting back to an old, lost world, a song about waltzing around the living room with a woman who might well hold the power to make you utterly miserable. The redemption would be in older patterns. Frightened Rabbit then played “December’s Traditions,” about the exacting power and misery of these yearly rituals. It wouldn’t even matter that Hutchinson climbed into the venue’s balcony late in the set, because Frightened Rabbit
and Augustines had already crawled backward in search of salvation in something old.

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