Future Islands 11/17 Echoplex Los Angeles Review

By Ace Ubas

Thursday night at the Echoplex marked the third time Baltimore-based trio Future Islands played to a frenetic Los Angeles crowd in just two months. They simply haven’t had enough of the City of Angels and apparently, the sold-out LA crowd hasn’t had enough of them either – and with good reason. And they’ve come a long way since last year where they played in front of less than a hundred people at the Smell. On this third go-around, they’re armed with their third full-length entitled On the Water.

At FYF Fest this year, they returned to LA to play inside a tent for a brief 30 minute set. But they made that half-hour count as they turned in one of the best performances at the festival where bands such as the Descendents, Guided by Voices, Death from Above 1979, and Explosions in the Sky headlined. By the end of their set, the crowd stormed the stage and danced away to their music.

Then two nights later at the Pehrspace, Future Islands played a secret post-FYF show with Dan Deacon. It was a room with 100 people cramped inside as that night turned into one hell of a sweaty dance party where crowd surfers nearly crashed through the ceiling. And did I mention that Val Kilmer was there?

The appeal of Future Islands not only lies in the romantic nature of the lyrics or the make-you-want-to-grind-on-the-person-next-to-you style of electronic music, but frontman/vocalist/performer Sam Herring’s stage presence. His actions on the stage demands your attention and once you look, you can’t look away. Why? Because the man is probably the most passionate and dramatic frontman I’ve seen live. Whether it’s creeping around the stage, whipping his body back-and-forth, or slapping his face as hard as he can such as on “Tin Man” (he’s not made out of tin by the way), you can immediately tell that it’s pure emotion that fuels Herring in his lyrics and his performance. When singing “and go alone at night/to misery’s bed/in misery’s bed we stay” on “An Apology” or “look back hold onto the last/don’t let today push out the past/you’ve gotta look back, look back/hold on ‘til the last” on “Where I Found You,” it’s hard to not feel what he’s been through not because of the way he sings those lines, but the facial expressions he has singing them. It’s as if he’s reliving those past moments of misery.

But don’t let Herring’s performance take away from the ability of keyboardist Gerrit Welmers or bassist William Cashion. They lay the musical foundation that Herring sings along to. On “Balance” and “Inch of Dust,” Cashion’s thick, yet seductive bass lines were enough to sooth the crowd, while it was Welmers’ twinkling and delicate keys that got tickled the crowd to move on “Before the Bridge,” “Walking Through That Door,” and “Vireo’s Eye.”

Looking back at what I’ve just written, there’s a dichotomy in the overall music. There are mainly themes of sorrow and heartbreak, yet the music makes you want to dance in elation and ecstasy. But that’s what makes them an amazing live band – the music and the vocals are dependant one another and emphasize each other. There really isn’t anything left to say other than see them live. It’ll be the closest thing to going to Broadway.

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