Upon arriving at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory Tuesday evening, I was presented with a much different scenario than what I experienced last time I visited. Gone were the punked out boys and hipsters of hard rock and in their place were...girls. Ordinary girls. Girls like your sister. Sitting on the floor. Had I been magically transported back to Roe on the Rocks again? Slightly surprised, I grabbed a whisky and headed over to the right side of the stage; every now and then glancing back to see more sundress and shorts-clad ladies filing in.
Up first was Portland’s Greylag. Slowly formed over the course of several years by frontman Andrew Stonestreet and guitarist Daniel Dixon, Greylag has recently been gaining a bit of momentum thanks to their single “Black Crow”. Boasting the same sort of haunting vocals of a Bon Iver or an Iron and Wine, the perfectly in sync band also brings something different to the table: great musicianship. Each song in the doleful set was given an almost cinematic beauty and scope thanks to Dixon’s superb guitar playing and Stonestreet’s elegant and poetic lyrics. In some ways, the sound was reminiscent of Kings of Leon, only with the Southern swagger replaced by the rain-drenched melancholy of an afternoon in the forests of the North West.
The lately beleaguered Augustana was up next, and it was evident from the first moment the group stepped on stage that the crowd was very much theirs. Despite a recent drop from Epic and the departure and subsequent replacement of a number of band members, Augustana’s leader, Dan Layus, seemed in high spirits, letting loose a Cheshire Cat grin or two when thanking the audience between songs. The set was long (a little too long), but the crowd clearly savored every minute of it singing along to the band’s seminal “Boston” and “Steal Your Heart”. One particularly ardent fan mouthed along enthusiastically to some of the band’s latest material like “Easy Lessons are the Hardest to Learn” and “I Need a Little Sunshine”.
Layus is in so many ways like a tortured, romantic Bob Dylan singing with the fervent conviction of a weary troubadour about how much he loves his wife and how he just wants to talk about love. The mystery of the sea of women was solved. This is boyfriend rock. These are the songs you consider when selecting the first dance at your wedding. It would all be much too cloying if it weren’t for Layus’ obvious earnestness. He feels these emotions so deeply. His devout fans do too.