Spring Concerts: Augustana and Band of Skulls

Pretty much the only two reasons to be inside in the spring just happened in Salt Lake City the last couple of weeks. Augustana and Band of Skulls both showed up in town for much-needed reappearances. These are two of my favorite bands, as is readily apparent to anyone who has read much of my previous concert reviews, so I’ll spare you the repetition of why they are two of the greatest bands ever and just get straight to the facts: If you don’t go see these bands you are a moron.

First, Augustana; Urban Lounge.

Urban Lounge is a funny place. The first thing that greets you as you go through the door is a large oil painting of John Stockton. Then, when you get inside, there is… a large oil painting of Jerry Sloan. It’s weird, but it’s actually a really nice place to see a concert, especially if you spring for a reserved booth (Yes, it’s worth it).

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The first thing that happened at this concert was a complete surprise, but it answered the long-reverberating question, “What in the world is Chris Carrabba doing these days?” Turns out, he’s touring with a new band called Twin Forks. This was a shocker to me, as I spent the first twenty minutes of the opening set saying, “Doesn’t that guy look an awful lot like Chris Carrabba?” If you’re wondering how this project differs from Dashboard Confessional (Carrabba’s groundbreaking emo-centric previous project), the answer is a lot. Twin Forks is a folky, americana-type sound that seems a lot like it’s trying really hard to sound like Mumford and Sons. It’s not bad at all, but it’s definitely not Dashboard. Whether that’s good or bad I’ll leave to you to decide.

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On to Augustana. Dan Layus is not touring with his oringinal bandmates, having parted company with them “amicably” according to reports. I guess he got tired of playing with his friends and decided that upgrades in musicianship were required. Anyway, whatever happened, the new band is seriously awesome. The only drawback is that they don’t know some of the early Augustana songs, which isn’t much of a drawback really, because Dan doesn’t remember some of the early stuff that well either, as it turned out. They ran through a bunch of the new tunes and mined the catalogue for old stuff and sounded just fantastic. Then Dan just opened it up for requests. People shouted stuff out and they did their best to play everything, even when Dan forgot the lyrics or the band had to improvise because they had never really played the song before. It was truly an incredible trip down memory lane, as well as a great intro to the new album. Dan Layus is one of the those performers who just gets better and better. Do yourself a favor and see this show.

Band of Skulls; In the Venue

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I have my issues with In the Venue as a place to see concerts because, I have said before, the place can really suck balls. But it’s a testament to just how good Band of Skulls is that there was really no way that they can play a bad show even in the dive that is the basement of In The Venue, otherwise known as Club Sound. The opening band was Sacco, and they were generally fine, but I won’t dwell. Band of Skulls hit the stage about 9:45 and really just blew the roof off the dump. I mean it was honestly one of the best concerts I have ever seen, and this even though they never played my favorite BoS song. They did, however, play Cold Fame, which is maybe the best slow jam ever written. The entire set was overwhelmingly great and I was struck by the fact that Band of Skulls, as a power trio, has an incredibly full sound, even compared with bands that have far more going on onstage, like say for example Arcade Fire, which travels with approximately 95 musicians (okay, not really). Band of Skulls is just an amazingly tight, powerful band, and you absolutely should not miss them.

Two weeks, two amazing concerts. You can’t beat that. I wonder what summer will be like?

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