Future Islands are an interesting case. The North Carolina synth-pop darlings are easy enough to read on first impression. Yes, they obviously make records with some approximation of David Bowie's Let's Dance in mind. Yes, lead singer Sam Herring is clearly obsessed with Morrissey, between his dramatic stage presence and his penchant for black t-shirts and jeans. The music is danceable and fulfilling, though formulaic and derivative.
So why do they matter? Why are they the center of the indie rock universe after one David Letterman appearance and a couple of prominent song placements? Simply put, no one else in popular music is executing that formula this well. Among other things, that was clear in Deep Ellum last night.
Dallas music fans were in rare form last night for this show, as Three Links slowly but steadily filled to capacity. Though the band's recent Letterman appearance has widely expanded their fan base, this show had been sold out for three months, and couldn't be attributed to the King of Late Night alone. Though the crowd was diverse in age range, and widely made up of people who don't look like they go to shows very often, they all had one thing in common: they were super hot for these guys.
Opening act Ed Schrader's Music Beat may have been a little too weird or avant garde for the crowd, had he not been so effusively charismatic and impishly charming in his stage demeanor. The shirtless, thin, and pale Schrader stood on the darkly lit stage over a single floor tom, fervently beating it and screeching hard and fast lyrics with a bassist at his side, playing along. His banter between songs was especially endearing.
Before Schrader closed his set, he played what he described as "A song about not moving to New York, and making your town the place to be" -- to which the crowd roared with applause.
While patrons took their smoke breaks and perused the merch on the venue's back patio, Future Islands front man Sam Herring sat alone in the corner by the door. Sometimes smoking, and mostly casing the crowd, he would occasionally stop brooding for a minute and sign an autograph or pose for pictures with fans. But when he went inside, so did everyone else. And that's when things started to get a little weird.
By the time Herring and company were ready to go on, many in the room had gotten pretty fucking wasted. The well-lit audience had at least three, but probably no more than five patrons ejected by Three Links before Future Islands rang out their first note. Venue bar and security staff definitely deserve a lot of credit for working hard to maintain a jackass-free environment throughout the night.
When Future Islands finally did get on stage, the crowd went wild, and they stayed wild. The edge of the stage was stacked with extremely eager young women and a few equally enthusiastic men. Throughout the set, the sexual energy in the room only increased, until it felt like everyone there wanted to sit on the face of their captivating front man at the same time. A couple of women in particular came very close to grabbing at Herring's bathing suit area, but he seemed to be in total control of the situation, teasing and enticing them right back with his signature dance moves.
And who could blame them? This is a man who puts a lot of thought and careful consideration into this seduction. The roll of his hips, every strain of his voice for emotional emphasis, even the "Alas, poor Yorick" style pantomime he dramatized in performance; this is all the calculated workings of a true showman. And the crowd was lapping it up like a pack of hungry dogs. Herring had that room in the palm of his hand, but it wasn't in vain.
He advised the audience, which was clearly growing increasingly more intoxicated at a rapid pace, to respect each others' space when he noticed moments of tension between pushing and shoving patrons. Herring also shouted out a few adoring locals celebrating late April and early May birthdays, as well. This is a man who knows how to handle being the subject of idol worship.
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Shortly before the night ended, Herring waxed poetic to the crowd before going into their biggest hit to date, "Seasons (Waiting On You)".
"The truth is funny, brutal, and fucking beautiful. You should share it more often if you can... There is no light without darkness." said the frontman
A deeply moved young woman at the foot of the stage grabbed her girlfriend's hand and squealed, "That is so true, I feel like I'm going to cry!"
"I probably stole that from somewhere," said Herring, "but it's true."