Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: Future Islands at Mohawk

Last night I was in attendance for the sold-out Future Islands show at the Mohawk. Future Islands are the returning champs of SXSW 2014 and last night's performance was their victory lap. Before the band took the stage I looked around and I saw so many members of so many Austin bands in the crowd. I also saw most of my fellow music bloggers and presumably some print media types too. In other words, it was the hipster show of night. Maybe even the hipster show of the week?

I'm not going to pretend I've been a big Future Islands fan since before they started getting buzz, because that would be a lie. I have been aware of the band for years, I have heard their records but last night was my first time seeing them perform live. Genre-wise, the band is kind of hard to nail down. They sort of sound like an 80's new wave band but there's more to it than that.

Future Islands - Seasons (Waiting on You) video via YouTube

It's no secret, Future Islands' lead singer Sam is the star of the show. He stalks the stage, unleashing bursts of movement, gyrating, gesturing, beating his chest and generally acting as if he is on the verge of coming unhinged. Sam was incredibly connected with the audience, making eye contact, pointing, shaking hands and being generally convivial. The core of Future Islands is their incredibly tight rhythm section, with melody provided by a keyboardist/computer-dude and the vocals. I'm still not sure how I feel about Sam's pro-wrestler/cookie monster voice that comes growling out on occasion but the crowd seemed to be into it and if it ain't broke don't fix it. By the end of the night Sam had sweat through his white T-Shirt and every one of his overly dramatic gestures caused great cascades of perspiration to fly through the air.

I had low expectations for the crowd because I knew that this was a show that a lot of people would want to say they were at. I strategically chose to watch from the floor level because the further you get from the stage the more casually attentive the audience becomes. I was hoping that remaining on the crowded ground level would mean people were more dedicated to paying attention to the performance and that was largely true. I also feel like the Mohawk's outside stage always sounds best on the ground level. It sounds good on the decks as well but if you're willing to sacrifice personal space the ground level is where it's at. It was also great to watch the people who were in the viewing area on the side of the stage singing along to every song and mimicking Sam's grand gestures. One of my favorite things in life is that feeling you get when you sing along at a show with your face toward the sky and your eyes closed tightly. There was a hell of a lot of that going on last night.

If you missed last night's show, I wouldn't fret too much. 2014 is a big year for Future Islands and I expect they'll be back through town again before it's over. I'm definitely going to include them in my Guess the Fest spreadsheet for FunFunFunFest. We'll know May 20th if I'm right or not.