By: Maddy Siiter
Augustana was a band that was a vital part of my life as a lonely, high school sophomore. While I remember downloading a handful of the group’s songs in eighth grade, when I started listening to the discography in full, it created a nice place to be while I navigated feeling friendless at 15. Suddenly, the words frontman Dan Layus sang created a nice distraction. I felt connected to his stories and have a special place for every song he released. I still think of both times I stood at the barricade with my mom that year; once in May and the next in November. That was 2014 and three years later, Augustana’s existence has changed as much as I have from 15 to 18.
Augustana as a band doesn’t actively exist anymore. After six years of Layus using the name following a departure of the original members, the frontman has recently gone out under his own name.
In October, Layus released his first solo record Dangerous Things, which is perhaps an appropriate sound change in this new era of the 32-year-old’s music. In Dangerous Things, Layus is notably influenced by the traditional country sounds of Hank Williams and Dwight Yoakam with heavy pedal steel and fiddle.
Upon first listen, I was more disappointed with my reaction than the actual album. I felt like a fake fan in a way, because honestly, I didn’t like it because I couldn’t really grasp a connection. The deep country sound was a sharp contrast to what I was used to. But then again, if I haven’t stayed the same, why should I expect him to do the same? Why should any band? I feel like the problem here is that I wanted to grow alongside the music Layus was releasing, yet when I didn’t really like it, it felt like both a bittersweet departure and an outcasting at the same time.
Still, when Layus announced he would be returning back to Minneapolis, I knew I had to be there. And the show was great.
Layus, accompanied by guitarist Jay Barclay and fiddlest Kristin Webber, humbly took the stage at Cedar Cultural Center to an almost full room. The trio began the set with songs – “Call Me When You Get There” and “Enough For You” from Dangerous Things, which surprisingly, were not as twang country as recorded on the album. Barclay added subtle electric guitar undertones while Layus steadily held rhythm on acoustic.
Some of my favorite Augustana songs like “Still Ain’t Over You”, “I Really Think So” and “Steal Your Heart” were played, too; familiar faces in the setlist. The familiar feeling of connection started to return as the show progressed and I found myself concentrating on nothing but what was in front of me.
Layus in the past has been known to be fairly quiet on stage, but decided it was a night for storytelling, saying, “This feels like a PBS special,” and mumbled, “Let’s hope we get to keep it.” — a reference to a rumored President Trump cut of federal government funding for the network.
When the night ended, I felt a strange sense of relieved contentment. I went into the night apprehensive of how I would feel and though some of the songs have brought sounds that don’t exactly resonate with me, I stood at the front of the stage still feeling captivated as I was at 15.