Friday, January 13, 2012
St. Lawrence Arts Center, Portland, Maine
Last week was a hard merge, but I went to see Jacob Augustine anyway. Brave girl. I called for a much needed Girls Night and Sophie, Michelle, and Rachel responded heartily. We met for dinner at Duckfat and minus Rachel, headed over on icy roads to St. Lawrence Arts Center on Munjoy Hill in Portland to see Jacob Augustine play two acoustic sets. I’d never seen a show there—it’s a converted church and has a beautiful wooden ceiling and riser seating. It feels old and intimate and lovely. I’ll be going back. Check out their website here.
Sophie and I saw Jacob open for Billy Libby in September at One Longfellow Square, and my best friend from high school, Meg, and I saw him at the Belfast Free Range Music Festival in April of 2011. I am a fan. We nestled into the center of the crowd and Jacob came out a little earlier than expected so he could finish up the show before Portland’s 10PM parking ban.
Jacob opened with “Waco,” a haunting song (I could say that about a lot of his songs, actually), and I love the juxtaposition that is Jacob Augustine. He is a burly guy with tattoos, a huge beard, and a shaved head who belts out in this falsetto voice that catches listeners off guard. One of the things I like about Jacob’s simple, yet also quite complex songs are the wailing “oo”s and “la”s—they make his songs complete and are as interesting and intricate as lyrics. You can read more about Jacob Augustine in this Maine Magazine article. Maine Magazine is one of my very favorites and they were one of the sponsors of the evening.
Jacob plays classical guitar—his simple strumming and chord progressions are a good backdrop for his powerful, heavy lyrics. His songs would make a beautiful film soundtrack. I’d also love to hear him harmonize with a female voice. I think it would be amazing.
Jacob played a beautiful rendition of “Methadone.” It’s a love song—it starts out “And without your love, I shake, shake, shake/I need you in my blood/And I love you every day/Yeah, I wake up/You’re always there to save me.” For about the first thirty seconds, I forgot that it’s really a love song FOR methadone. Being from northern Maine, Jacob addresses the turmoil and chaos drugs continue to cause in our beloved state. It certainly sounds like he knows what he’s singing about.
Jacob called himself a “quiet man onstage” and I agree, but I liked hearing the background behind one of the songs, “Catalina.” He talked about an accident in a field in high school where a friend was run over and he literally lifted the car up off of her so she could be extracted. She was in a full body cast and had a long recovery. Later, her mother overdosed, and a week after that, so did she. I love knowing what songs are about, and I had this brief moment where I thought it would be great to hear a Jacob Augustine storytelling session, but I quickly changed my mind. Some (most?) of his songs are heavy and about very serious, troubling, difficult things and I’m not sure how many of the back stories I could handle hearing. I imagine songwriting is one of the ways he processes those difficult times in his life. Music is good therapy for all of us.
“Coyote,” from his Frontier album, is one of my very favorites and I was happy to hear it. “Asthma,” also from Frontier (I think that’s my favorite of his albums), was stunning—his patient refrain of “it was so good to see your smiling faces” was intense and the somehow already silent room got quieter. By the end of the evening, I was sufficiently lulled and ready for bed (Friday nights are SO not the right night for this teacher to be out on the town!). Jacob closed with another of my favorites, “Peace Comes.” If you can carve out six minutes in your day, I’d really recommend listening to this beautiful, collaborative version of “Peace Comes.” The message that “peace comes—I promise, I promise/Hold on” was the right note to end the night on.
There is something primal and urgent yet so gentle and simple about Jacob’s songs, and about the singer himself, as well. I am caught in the juxtaposition and will happily linger there until I see him again.
Jacob’s albums are available at his bandcamp site. You can name your own price to download his music. I hope you’ll check him out!