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Augustana rocks its way through the dregs of punk-friendly radio

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When your band calls San Diego home and your rock sound isn't influenced by Sublime, you're probably going to have a few problems booking gigs.

Take Augustana, who a few short years back received one "No thanks" after another from Southern California club managers.

"It's funny," says drummer Justin South. "We stop by these venues in San Diego [now] and tell the owners, "Yeah, man, you totally dissed us when we tried to book a gig with you guys.' They're completely apologetic."

It was really the only bump in the road for the new rock act, whose members are all still in their early 20s. Augustana has incessantly toured behind its debut effort, All the Stars and Boulevards, and recently garnered mainstream attention for its single "Boston."

Despite the emo and pop-punk zeitgeist of the moment, the members of Augustana have stumbled upon a musical style that appeals to a broader audience. This realization came in spades when the group performed on the 2005 Take Cover Tour with punkier acts like Panic! at the Disco and Cartel.

"Everyone we talked to off the stage was wanting to play Americana rock and not do the punk thing," South says. "But for whatever reason, they ended up being successful with whatever style they were doing. I think if you talk to most of those bands, they'd want to be doing what we're doing."

A year after the Take Cover experience, Augustana found a tour more suited to its sound and style. Last summer, they performed for soccer moms and aging Gen X-ers alike as the opening acts on the Counting Crows' and Goo Goo Dolls' Walk Down Memory Lane Tour.

"The Counting Crows, those guys are like our mentors," South says. "Going on that tour was definitely like a big deal to us, and we learned a lot from them and they really took care of us and taught us a lot of things. We definitely look up to those guys and strive to have their career."

From a credibility standpoint, what the Crows, and the Goos (to some extent), enjoyed was early critical acclaim. Augustana has enjoyed similar success with All the Stars and Boulevards, which was recorded in 2004, released in 2005 and slow-brewed to become a success in 2006. There's a thin line, though, South admits, between becoming the Counting Crows and, say, one of the other, more forgettable pop bands that seemingly followed in their footsteps.

"Train or Matchbox Twenty these are all nightmares, and it's not what we're going for," South says. "Cheers to those bands, and they're doing their thing, but that's not what we want to be doing with our music and our career. How do you avoid that? Making records and decisions as you go along the way. But we don't want to be lumped in that category."

He adds: "Tom Petty is the best template we're going for not necessarily the Counting Crows and super-adult, hot adult contemporary. Just good American, catchy rock."

scene@csindy.com

Augustana with Vega4

Gothic Theatre, 3263 S. Broadway, Englewood

Saturday, Jan. 20, 9. p.m.

Tickets: $13 in advance, $15 at the door, 16-plus; visit ticketweb.com.

  • Augustana rocks its way through the dregs of punk-friendly radio

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