Augustana – You Still Know Their Name

Just how stereotypically Californian is Dan Layus? Very. He’s more Californian than James Franco, in a less fake-pretentious intellectual way. With his squinted eyes, he always seemed stoned when addressing the crowd at Venue, and his bass player had the macho greasy biker look down to a T. So Augustana in other words is the most Californian thing. EVER.

It’s hard to believe this band is still around. Well technically, it’s just Layus and some backing musicians. Eight years ago they were on the top-of-the-world with “Boston”, but by 2011 all members had parted ways, leaving Layus essentially on his own. Where perhaps he could have played the Commodore back then (or perhaps even the Orpheum), his show on Saturday took place at Venue, which is one of the places that turns into a DJ Dance club at 10:00. Regardless, it was still a decent show. As someone who knew of Augustana because of “Boston” I wasn’t sure what the rest of the would bring. Luckily my date for the night was a big fan of Dan Layus. (Although she too was going on and on about how wanted to hear Boston).

I guess was typical and what one might expect from a guy who could be Franco’s dumber cousin from SoCal. (I’m not implying that Dan Layus is stupid, but when compared to Franco, almost anyone is “less intellectual”). With ease he shifted between guitar and piano as coloured lights spelled out the band’s name above him. There were ballads, rock songs, poppier songs and folk tunes. And of course, there was Boston.

Augustana in Concert at Venue, May 3, 2014. Photo by Dana Nielsen

It is quite interesting that Augustana’s new album is titled Life Imitating Life. “Boston” is about starting over, going to a place where “nobody knows your name”. In a way, Layus has done just that, essentially taking a mulligan after Jared Palomar, John Vincent, Justin South, and Chris Sachtleben left in 2011. Josiah Rosen left in late 2007. People may still recognize the name Augustana, if only to realize that it was a band from yesteryear who had a hit song about a famous city in America almost a decade ago. But, for true fans of the band, like my friend who was with me that night, Layus has never gone away. He’s always been there, doing his thing, and making groovy Cali-piano music. He may not be crossing the finish line at a marathon, but he has had steady artistic output as his career has gone through a variety of phases and stages.

Most artists – in fact all bands – at some point go through what Layus did and is. Some never recover. Anybody remember Wave? How about Deep Blue Something? Those were true one-hit wonders, and the former’s hit was a quasi-hit at best. The thing about Layus is his fashioned persona. The is-he-high-or-not bravado and his nuanced smile, along with his casual style of dress made him relatable to the Vancouverites for which he was performing. He has a good thing going for him and still has many devotees of his music. He may never reach Mt. Olympus, but he’ll always just keep strumming away. Oh, and he ended the night by doing his best Bob Dylan. Right on Dan, right on. Peace out. Keep on strumming.


Ash and Ember


Life Imitating Life was released April 22, 2014 on Razor & Tie Records.

RIYL: Five For Fighting, Milk Carton Kids


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