San Francisco music fans came out in full force Tuesday night as they packed Bottom of the Hill. The sold out crowd was eager to catch an intimate set from Thrill Jockey’s synth rock artist Future Islands. The excitement for this show was visible upon entering the club. It was no surprise that fans ensured that the concert sold out well in advance of Tuesday night’s show. This show was a part of the Baltimore trio’s heavy touring in support of their recent release On The Water.
I recently discovered Future Islands and have enjoyed exploring each of the band’s three full-length releases. There is something very intriguing to me about Samuel T. Herring’s Tom Waits sounding voice paired up with powerful synth-lines. I was curious to hear how this style would translate in a live setting.
Herring (vocals) and his bandmates J. Gerrit Welmers (synthesizers, programming) and William Cashion (bass) arrived onstage to a roar from the audience. Looking like a younger version of Morrissey, Herring walked up to the mic in the uncommon rock wardrobe of dress pants and a long tee. In addition to his physical appearance, he strengthened this comparison with the darkness of his voice and the strange way he moved around the stage.
The set kicked off with “The Great Fire” off their recent release. This was a smooth start to the set, but certainly was lacking Herring’s strong vocals and the emotion that I found to be so compelling throughout the rest of the show. This song had the crowd looking back at the sound booth, as they were visibly disappointed. After the song ended, Herring made a few requests. The last of which was to turn up the vocals, which the crowd approved of. The energy picked up during “Balance” as Herring led the audience in jumping and shuffling side to side, while dancing like a child.
The energy and emotion carried by Herring throughout a set was unlike anything that I’d seen at a show. His vocals during “Tin Man” were piercing as they rumbled through the speakers over the steel drum. The crowd couldn’t help but sing and jump along to the music. The singer peered into various fans’ eyes and beat his chest as he crouched near the floor. Soaked in sweat, Herring announced the band had time for just one more. This led into the fluttering synth line of “Vireo’s Eye.” This song had Cashion adding in a powerful bass strum paired up with a pulsating synth line. This served as the perfect framework to surround Herring as he poured out his heart.
To the anticipation of the crowd, Future Islands returned to the stage to play a couple of more songs. The encore was closed out with the danceable single “Pinnochio”. This gave Herring one last chance to dance all over the Bottom of the Hill stage.
They still have a few U.S. dates ahead of them on their current tour before heading over seas. Be sure to catch them at a small venue now while you can.
November 17 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echoplex SOLD OUT
November 18 – Long Beach, CA @ Alex’s Bar
November 19 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
November 20 – Phoenix, AZ @ Rhythm Room
November 22 – Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
November 23 – New Orleans, LA @ Hi Ho Lounge
November 25 – Birmingham, AL @ The Bottletree
November 26 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl (w/Lonnie Walker)
November 27 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle (w/Lonnie Walker)
November 28 – Wilmington, NC @ Soapbox (w/Lonnie Walker)
November 29 – Charlottesville, VA @ Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar
November 30 – Lancaster, PA @ The Lizard Lounge
December 1 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom (w/Zomes)
December 2 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kungfu Necktie
December 3 – Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar
December 8 – London, UK @ Rhythm Factory (w/Peaking Lights)
December 9 – Minehead, UK @ ATP Nightmare Before Christmas