MUSIC BOX: Feelin’ Future Islands

By on September 20, 2017

A big name in Synthpop set to take the stage in Jackson, complete with dad moves.

Even if you’re not familiar with the wild synthpop band Future Islands, you’re probably still familiar with their name. They are, after all, a main staple on nearly every large festival lineup each season. 

Known for wicked performances and some, well, pretty sweet dad dance moves, Future Islands arguably “made it” pretty darn big after an awkward and unforgettable performance on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2014 went viral. 

If you haven’t had the opportunity or luck to stumble across the YouTube video of Future Islands’ performance on Letterman, here’s the synopsis: Front man Samuel T. Herring, donned in black pants and a black, tucked-in t-shirt, sings “Seasons (Waiting on You)” through a series of dramatic, one might say old (think dad at a wedding) dance moves. 

His voice was equal parts tonal and gravelly, going so far as to occasionally drop into a low growl. 

The performance was mesmerizing, however objectively good or bad Herring’s dancing was, and the band’s enthusiasm for making music helped them carve a niche into the hearts of many Letterman watchers and music junkies alike. And lucky for you, Future Islands’ killer performance, alongside Herring’s dance moves, is coming to Jackson. 

That’s right, folks. Herring and his Future Islands cohorts—the brilliant guitar and bassist William Cashion and sweet, sweet keyboardist Gerrit Welmers—are set to take the Pink Garter stage on September 28 for the first time in Teton history. 

Jackson is by far the smallest town on the Baltimore trio’s current tour, which celebrates the release of their newest album “The Far Field,” stopping in cities like Los Angeles and Dallas, just to name a few.  

Big names in small towns seems to be a Jackson trend these days, with many a decent national act opting for this town over, say, more Salt Lake-y stops. And we’re lucky they are. Such treats offer something to look forward to during the dull, cold shoulder season for those who are dumb enough (or perhaps smart enough, depending on your affinity for lots and lots of snow) to stick around for it. 

Big venue, small venue, big town or small town, you’re in for it if you head over to their show at the Pink Garter in late September, because live performances are where Future Islands’ songs really come to life. 

Herring is even known to rip clothes on stage because, well, clothing can’t contain moves like his. We know the feeling.

“The ultimate goal [of our shows] is to bring people together, for people to feel free to be emotional, to be open with themselves, and open with who they love or complete strangers,” Herring told GQ in a recent interview. “To create that space, that environment for people to feel free to be who they are.” 

Herring says his songs are never fully complete until they have been before a live audience. Even the lyrics’ meanings change. It was widely reported that Herring even cried on stage at an L.A. show during a performance of a new song, “Cave.” Perhaps with good reason, mind you: “Cave” was, after all, originally written as a love song, but the lyrics and meaning evolved to make a statement on the political climate. 

“This country is so fucked up,” he told GQ post-show. 

Future Islands’ musicis perhaps most accurately characterized by Rolling Stone as synth pop: energetic keyboard tracks play behind Herring’s raspy voice. But far from the shallow head-bopping pop of the ‘80s, every lyric in Herring’s songs are full of feeling. 

“The tremble of a word can make you cry,” Herring told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “You don’t [necessarily] recognize what about it, but something can make you break down. It’s fucking beautiful.” 

Future Islands evolved from their college band “Art Lord and the Self-Portraits,” whose music was a staple East Carolina University (in North Carolina, actually). 

The rock n’ roll lifestyle caught up pretty quickly to a young Herring, who has spoken openly about how partying and the limelight led to a cocaine addiction. 

As with Future Islands’ baffling but brilliant performances, Herring’s tale of addiction in his early years is one of resurrection. Herring came clean to his parents at 22 years old, and cleaned up on his own before moving away from home. 

He told Rolling Stone he hasn’t felt “the dark darkness” in years, but shadows of depression still haunt his lyrics, even today.  

Herring says he doesn’t really have a “happy place”—except on stage. “That’s where I have purpose,” he said. “ It’s what makes me know I deserve to be—not that I need to be—on this earth.” PJH

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