LIVE, IN PHOTOS: Future Islands Charms Santa Barbara
By Cynthia Orgel, Photos by Sterling Geist on September 6, 2012
Sure, I’m slightly obsessed with Mad Men. And yeah, maybe it’s impossible not to appear glamorous after the XBXRX punks have finished terrorizing the audience. Either way, I can’t help but compare Future Islands’ frontman, Samuel T. Herring, to the suave ad man Don Draper—during those seldom moments when Draper isn’t wearing a suit, but rather, a white T-shirt tucked into slacks.
Herring was wearing just that at Velvet Jones last Friday night, August 31, in Santa Barbara, when he and Baltimore bandmates Gerrit Welmers (keyboards) and William Cashion (bass/guitars) kicked off their fall tour. Though Herring has Draper’s dashing looks, he isn’t trying to sell anything. Actually, he gives of himself very freely. Long before Future Islands even hit the stage, Herring could be seen mingling with fans near the merch booth and bar. One group of fans even wore their own custom-made baseball tee with Herring’s face on it.
Fast forward to just after 10 p.m. when the unthinkable happened: Herring became even more hospitable onstage, engaging with as many audience members as possible through some incredibly intimate eye contact. The effect was unanimously magnetic; girls screamed “sexy!” and “thank you!” while guys crowded the stage in absolute reverence, reaching for Herring’s hand. Honestly, I have never seen boys swoon so hard over another dude before.
The trio began their 80-minute set with the recently released track, “The Fountain” (from the Tomorrow/The Fountain 7”), and then launched into a wide range of hits from In Evening Air and On the Water, including a few more new songs (“Lighthouse,” “Cotton Flower,” and one that is still untitled).
During “Inch of Dust,” the room really began to heat up. Herring’s swinging arm gestures were reminiscent of a fighter in a boxing ring, as he slugged the air in front of him to the melody of Welmers’ punchy beats. It was incredible to watch Herring’s face contort with each emotional repetition of the phrase “I’ll be there always.” Cashion and Welmers kept their composure, expertly playing and barely peering up from their instruments. In fact, they only exuded two emotions during the entire show: complacence and confidence. Cashion’s basslines were especially killer during “Close to None,” causing the crowd to bob up and down uncontrollably.
The trio finished the set with a string of In Evening Air songs. Fans went nuts during the beginning of “Tin Man,” as Herring held a mic in one hand and bent down to slap the stage with the other causing an earth-shattering boom to be heard amongst Welmers’ synthetic bongos. When Herring growled, “I am the tin man,” toward the song’s conclusion, he unclenched his fist and blew, wishing on a make-believe dandelion. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who followed the trail of this dandelion; Herring made it look much too real.
After the painful hit, “Long Flight,” and the rowdiest song of the night, “Vireo’s Eye,” Future Islands played a slower, romantic soul song for the encore—“Little Dreamer”— the throwback closing track on Wave Like Home.
Herring gave so much of himself during this performance that it’s hard to believe he didn’t vanish into thin air like the dandelion. Or maybe he did when he exited the stage, but I’d rather not find out.