September 28, 2018
Cover photo: @canucknpinnc
Future Islands is a hard band to classify. With all of the synthesizers that they utilize, people tend to lump them into synthpop, but that doesn’t quite encompass their sound. Their music has traces of many genres across indie rock, punk rock, krautrock and new wave. The band considers themselves to be post-wave: a combination of the romanticism of new wave with the grit and power of post-punk. Regardless of how you classify them, Future Islands is a beloved band with a large and devoted fan-base. As they stopped by Charlotte to perform at The Fillmore (and grab a bite at Diamond) people showed up en masse to show their love for the group and dance the night away.
The evening began with a set by Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, a duo from Baltimore. The minimalist act consisted of Ed Schrader on vocals and Devlin Rice on bass and back-up vocals. Schrader’s voice carried the group throughout the night, as he transitioned from Jim Morrison-esque verses to soaring, dramatic choruses. Between songs, he did impromptu impressions of famous tunes such as “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” and “New York State of Mind,” as the audience ate up his spot-on renditions. As he danced and belted his heart out, Rice was busy maintaining the groove and triggering the pre-recorded tracks to create the grandiose soundscapes of their songs. Heads bobbed and bodies swayed as the two musicians won over the audience eagerly awaiting the main act. After giving Charlotte a taste of their music, mostly taken from their latest album Riddles, the band thanked the audience and made way for Future Islands.
Many people only know Future Islands from the briefly viral video of them performing their \song “Seasons (Waiting on You)” on David Letterman a few years back. Frontman Samuel Herring fascinated millions of viewers with his signature growl, lively dancing and passionate performance as the band made their network television debut. At the end of the video, Letterman is visibly giddy about the performance, and bandleader Paul Shaffer declares that he “loves this band.” That performance helped catapult the Greenville, NC band to a well-known status, and they have now had the opportunity to play on the main stage of some huge festivals, including Coachella, Bonnaroo, and the Glastonbury Festival. However, the band certainly has not forgotten their roots.
As the band took to the stage, Herring talked about how good it was to be back in North Carolina, where it all started for them. They began by performing “Grease” from 2011’s On the Water, which they prefaced by telling the audience that the song was written about the Queen City’s own World Famous Milestone. The band then launched into a lengthy set of tracks from across their entire discography, including some brand new tracks peppered throughout the set to the audience’s delight. During the second of two new tracks back-to-back Herring joked that they were in their old stomping grounds, so they could do whatever they wanted. The group’s obvious feeling of connection and contentment with being in Charlotte brought a feeling of intimacy and comradery across the venue, making for a truly special experience for all in attendance.
Future Islands are seasoned performers at this point, and their show truly reflects this. The synths, drums and bass never missed a step, and Herring danced and poured his heart out on stage with the energy and enthusiasm of someone half his age. It was a captivating experience, and the audience couldn’t tear their eyes away until the lights came on, and attendees had to return to reality.
Check out the remaining 2018 tour dates for Future Islands.
Watch this 2014 Noisey short doc on Future Islands at The Milestone.