Baltimore Band Brings a Dance Party to Mercury Lounge

October 26th, 2010

Future Islands – Mercury Lounge – October 25, 2010

(Photo: Jen Macchiarelli)

(Photo: Jen Macchiarelli)

Future Islands have a reputation for delivering a great live show, and after witnessing Sam Herring on vocals last night at Mercury Lounge, it’s easy to see the reason why. Growling, punching himself in the side of the head, beating his chest and fist pumping in operatic falsetto, he’s a cross between Klaus Naomi and Henry Rollins caught in the middle of a synth dance party. This is all in stark contrast to Herring’s in-between-songs banter, politely apologizing for a broken cable and telling jokes, glad to be back in New York City after months overseas. He obviously has to work himself into this split theatrical persona, physically punishing his body and vocals to recreate his tortured state in Future Islands’ recorded material.

Herring’s stage presence is at least due in part to the breeding ground for any innovative successor: art school. This band is his performance-art piece loosely disguised as catchy post-Wave. The latest album in Thrill Jockey‘s eclectic catalog, In Evening Air was unfortunately inspired by a recently ended relationship. It goes without saying that a rock career can leave a lot of lonely significant others back at home, which is another reason not to take any shows for granted. Future Islands don’t get to spend time with their friends or families, but that ultimately resulted in crushing tracks last night, like “An Apology” and “Tin Man.”

Future Islands are part of the same unlikely Wham City collection of Baltimore artists as Dan Deacon. And this former industrial city is the American equivalent of Salford, Greater Manchester, which spawned Joy Division’s cold post-punk sound. The two bands share many of the same touchstone elements: a heavy use of electronics, doubled-chorus basslines and a charismatic lead singer capable of combining the precision of electronics and the imperfect, real mess of emotion. —Jason Dean