KEXP @ CMJ 2011, Day 1: We Are Augustines

photos by Brittney Bush Bollay and Victoria VanBruinisse

When New York indie rockers Pela broke up in 2009, guitarist Nate Martinez started the weighty, emotional folk band Thieving Irons, while front man Billy McCarthy and bassist Eric Sanderson teamed up to form We Are Augustines with the intention of releasing an album comprised of several songs McCarthy had written while Pela were still in tact. Because the music industry played a large role in Pela’s demise, McCarthy and Sanderson were reluctant to become involved with a label, but persevered to record and self-release Rise Ye Sunken Ships, a powerful album of anthemic folk rock inspired by McCarthy’s heart-wrenching but formative past. Thankfully the band later agreed to a deal with Turnout Records so that the album could see a wider release, which it did on August 2. “Headlong Into the Abyss,” one of the standout tracks off Rise Ye Sunken Ships was KEXP’s Song of the Day on Tuesday. For a free download, click here (you can also score a free download of the song “Book of James” here). In addition to their KEXP performance from the Ace Hotel, presented by Toyota Free Yr Radio, We Are Augustines will be headlining a showcase at the Bowery Ballroom TONIGHT!

Clearly excited at the opportunity to play a midday CMJ set in his hometown that would be broadcast worldwide live on KEXP, We Are Augustines front man Billy McCarthy was beaming as he took the stage and surveyed the crowd assembled before him in the lobby of the Ace Hotel. We Are Augustines passionate, building anthems are, not surprisingly, incredibly powerful live and it starts and ends with McCarthy’s unbridled enthusiasm and energy - he ended all six songs sweaty, red-faced, and seemingly completely exhausted. From the first chord to McCarthy’s last exhalation, the band made the most of the unique platform, leaving every ounce of energy they had on the stage and prompting the crowd to stand up and clap along to their inspirational, uplifting jams. After the last note rang out, McCarthy wearily raised his arms to acknowledge the crowd and, once again, couldn’t have been smiling any wider.

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