Words and Photos by Ben Irwin
A little over 10 years ago, right around the time Ozma released Rock and Roll Part Three, and Jimmy Eat World released Bleed American the word Emo became a profanity; similar to the stigma that Hipster has taken on a decade later. My best guess as to why Emo was shunned is that the American public really doesn’t know how to deal with outward displays of real emotion. Perhaps it makes us uncomfortable as it forces us to confront our own personal issues; maybe that’s a little too close to home.
But allow me to temporarily digress…
Future Islands played to sold-out crowd of nearly 700 at the Echoplex on Thursday after their show was moved downstairs from The Echo due to popularity. It was less than a year ago that when they came to Los Angeles they were playing to about 70 people at The Smell. Since then they’ve gained a ton of national acclaim and adoration for their new album “On the Water”. Their recent local popularity however, is more than likely due to their stage stealing, pants splitting set at FYF this year.
9 Songs worth of video from Future Island @ Echoplex!
Videos by youtube user jireynolds
Admittedly I was one of those uninitiated who discovered Future Islands at FYF, and while I was blown away enough by the show to make an instant fan of me I couldn’t help but stare on with amazement at the crowd that was that the show, and more specifically the demographic of the crowd. My wonder, and adoration, made stronger because the crowd at FYF primarily consisted of kids that would’ve been too cool to hang out with me in high school. 14 through 22-year-old members of the modern-day bourgeoisie who already had a better understanding of fashion and pop culture than I’ll ever possess.
Without hearing a note if you took out any of Future Islands’ record sleeves/CD jackets and read through the lyrics you’d probably develop a fairly strong opinion of the band, and what you would expect them to sound like. Most of the songs revolve around the central theme of heartbreak, distrust, abandonment, and fractured self. Lyrically it might be the polar opposite of popular bands like Real Estate whose poppy and unassuming demeanor seems to cater to the American Apparel culture. And I don’t mean that as a slight on Real Estate, but as commentary that the trend in popular music is to produce agreeable and unassertive tunes.
Which brings me back to Future Islands.
As I watched lead singer Sam Herring frenetically jump around stage, his signature move involves him jumping and then landing in a wide stance with his torso and head still 2 to 3 feet behind his legs as he violently snaps his entire upper like a bullwhip to body to catch up, it was undeniable how much emotion he poured out into every performance; and the crowd fed on it. Maybe Future Islands has awoken a hunger for genuine passion within these Angelenos. Certainly one aspect that broadens their appeal is that Herring’s deeply personal, and often painfully visceral lyrics are wrapped in beautiful key and synth heavy dance melodies provided by electronic instrumentist Gerrit Welmers and bassist William Cashion. Which seemingly provides listeners a choice of what to focus their concert going experience on ; if you’re there to let the music take you on a journey of self-exploration through some dark regions of your mind, or simply to dance your ass off , there’s something in Future Islands for you. More than a decade later Future Islands is making emotional music popular again without even coming close to anything that the cool kids would label Emo.
Pictures from Futures Islands – Echoplex 11-17-11
Setlist from Futures Islands – Echoplex 11-17-11
The Great Fire
Inch Of Dust
Before The Bridge
Tomorrow (new song)
Give Us The Wind
Where I Found You
Close To None
Walking Through That Door
The Happiness Of Being Twice