Future Islands, the much-buzzed-about threesome from Baltimore, MD spent an hour or so entertaining a packed crowd at Larimer Lounge in Denver last Wednesday. The crowd was as expected: hip, stylishly dressed in mostly black, and included several members from the local music community, such as Ethan Converse of Flashlights and Travis Egedy aka Pictureplane.
Future Islands is a special blend of sounds and sights. Comprised of band mates who have known each other for over 14 years, the band grew up together in North Carolina, attended East Carolina University, and now reside and make music in Baltimore. The outgoing front man, Samuel Herring, sings and resembles a mix of Bill the Butcher, Jack Black and Chris Farley. With vocals that sound like an opera singer mixed with Robert Smith of The Cure, he physically performs as though he is in a scary and dramatic Broadway musical. Focused and less vocal than Herring, Gerrit Welmers plays keyboard and controls synthesizer, beats and electronic drums for the band. William Cashion holds it down on bass, using multiple digital effects and pedals to make his bass project multi-instrumental sounds.
It was quite a treat to see the band perform. Even though they played songs that were only two to three minutes long, they were able to grab full emotional attention from the crowd, mainly because of the deep and dramatic delivery from Herring. Tracks included “Balance” from their new album, “All Night Long” in which Herring gave a shout out to Pictureplane, and “Tin Man” which inspired floor slaps by Herring and a large cheer from the crowd. During “Long Flight,” Herring violently yet animatedly shoved his fist in his own mouth before performing “Grease”, “Walking Through That Door”, “Swept Inside” (an acapella version), “In the Fall,” and “Vireo’s Eye”. The trio followed with an encore of “The Great Fire,” slowing things down and then picking the pace right back up with the upbeat “Old Friend.”
Herring is clearly their leader and main source of entertainment and energy. He spent half the night making faces, pointing at fans, sweating, dancing and making creepily disturbing hand gestures. Future Islands offers one of the most unique live performances. They have somehow created their own genre and sound – an emotionally grabbing mix of deep, dark raspy vocals (that honestly reminded us of Jason Segel’s Vampire Opera in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but in the best way possible), along with some chilled-out synth riffs and bass that varies from heavy metal to trendy. Most importantly, they perform uninhibitedly – it is clear that these guys have played and known each other for most of their lives.