I don’t often watch late night talk shows these day, but when I did I usually tuned in for the musical guests. Now, this list is by no means comprehensive. I obviously haven’t watched the over 4000 episodes David hosted, so this is a list of the performances that I watched and that I can recall either actually made me WANT to go out and buy the band’s album or impressed the hell out of me.
I purchased a lot of music in 2014. A ton of CDs, a couple of cassettes, and a few digital purchases. I’m also a lover of the vinyl format … but with the generally higher prices for vinyl, I’ve had to be a bit more selective with my decisions as to what new LP gets added to my racks. Some of the selections were good, some bad … but what I’ve got for you here are a handful of LPs that I purchased that I’m particularly fond of.
“[…] Joey, Troupe, and Nick (bass, vocals, guitar) heralded three part harmonies that maintained the attention of an audience caught off guard by the band’s naïve appearance and subdued interactions. […]. Troupe’s ambitious vocal range sailed smoothly through the heart of every song, and as a singing trio they were just as solid and as much of a centerpiece. Their quick paced songs were brought down to hip swaying tempos at times, adding an aura of unexpected intensity and edge to the band’s otherwise sonically friendly climate. But despite their seemingly shy demeanors reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie, but edgier, the four guys from Austin performed a confident set of hook-heavy pop rock.”
Written by G.Bonilla and D. Lee
There was a line almost 2 blocks long waiting to to get into the venue before doors had opened. Future Islands, who were playing club gigs last year, are now selling out storied venues like the Wiltern.
It’s not easy for bands to break through. Sometimes it can take years. Sometimes it never happens. It took 8 years, but Future Islands finally got the exposure they deserved when they made their network television debut on March 3, 2014, on The Late Show with David Letterman, performing the lead single “Seasons (Waiting On You)”. That’s how I discovered them. That’s why I’ve seen them three times this year.
We entered the storied venue and as the others spent time visiting Red Bull affiliated booths and activities in the lobby, we stepped into the performance room to set up shop to find a good view. As we made our way up front, walking towards the relatively empty orchestra pit, a security guard stopped us to give us wristbands to enter the space up front. Typically at the Wiltern, orchestra pit passes are given to those waiting in line for the doors to open. Thankful, for whatever reason, that they gave them out, first come-first served, to whose who ventured to the front of the stage before the show started.
The first band to take the stage was Red Bull Sound Select artist, SPEAK; an art rock band from Austen, Texas.
The muted look of black attire and prescription glasses camouflaged the three guys and drummer out on stage. They quietly took the stage and meekly addressed the audience. They didn’t have to say a word. They introduced themselves to the audience by digging into their instruments. With a different palate to offer, SPEAK took a detour from the synth-pop lineup of the evening. Elaborations on four-on-the-floor beats and pop progressions were accompanied by synth lines but not driven by them. That’s not to say that the band was unfamiliar with how to hook a bait; the oscillating melodies that stamped each of their songs are proof of their knack for knowing what sticks.
Joey, Troupe, and Nick (bass, vocals, guitar) heralded three part harmonies that maintained the attention of an audience caught off guard by the band’s naïve appearance and subdued interactions. That’s not to say that there was a timidity in their sound. Troupe’s ambitious vocal range sailed smoothly through the heart of every song, and as a singing trio they were just as solid and as much of a centerpiece. Their quick paced songs were brought down to hip swaying tempos at times, adding an aura of unexpected intensity and edge to the band’s otherwise sonically friendly climate. But despite their seemingly shy demeanors reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie, but edgier, the four guys from Austin performed a confident set of hook-heavy pop rock.
The second band, another Red Bull Sound Select Artist, Rose Quartz, is a synth band Denver, Colorado.
As the veil of darkness on stage lifted to reveal stacked bulks of vintage looking synth gear, the duo known as Rose Quartz (who perform as a foursome live with the addition of guitar and drums) went into what I would describe as dancy trancy synthy indie.
Their cyclical progressions and repetitive vocal lines gave the performance a chanty element and plenty of landscape to dance to, making their set sound like one long song. Build-ups usually plateaud onto lyrical incantations while vocal effects trailed through musical changes that hopped back and forth between two or three chords. Again, dancy trancy synthy indie. The band’s musicianship gave gravity to the group’s spacey nature and I appreciated the strength of their live show; they gave their all and played an enthusiastic set. I would however like to hear them develop the journey of their songs instead of relying on technological filters as a vehicle to drive the music home. We couldn’t ignore that the progression of their songs lacked a story, leaving listeners pretty much where it all began. Nonetheless, their stamina to float into the ether and keep the dance vibes rolling made for a truly dancy, trancy, synthy indie time at the Wiltern.
Rose Quartz was a decent appetizer … but we were ready and anxious for Future Islands to take the stage..
When Future Islands walked out on stage, you could tell that the crowd that was unmistakably on a mission to move and be moved. Singer Samuel Herring began with speaking a heartfelt introduction that bonded us both and served as preparation for a ceremony of unabashed intimacy.
There seemed to be shaky start as within a few seconds of their opening song, Sam gestured abruptly to kill sound and apologized of for the synth malfunction. It was as is he was teasing and taunting the brewing hurricane that the music was stirring. The audience was more than willing to forgive the incident even before Herring made a comment on the beauty of second chances. If anything, the technical difficulty proved to show the humanity in the circumstance and fit right in with the prevalent theme of their music.
They picked up just as powerfully as the first attempt, and it soared from there. Between primal outbursts of energy, blessing the crowd, eating his own sweat, and a Hulk-like tear through his shirt, the shamanistic vocalist prodded out our repressions as he shared with us his confessions. Balloons released from above as the night came to a close and Future Islands made sure there wasn’t a single thing you hadn’t danced out by playing three encores. By the end of the performance, the air was thick with the sweat of released emotional baggage. Walking back out into the city was the perfect cool down for the collective dance party we’d all just had.
Does Red Bull have the keys to the future of the music industry? Only time will tell, but their business model is one that I think may trend positive for the foreseeable future.
INSTAGRAM VIDEOS: CLICK HERE
THOUGHTS: The first time I saw The Naked and Famous perform live was at Coachella this year. I was curious to see how much their stage performance had evolved from the first time I saw them perform, and I’ll have to admit that there was something about their performance at First Festival that really impressed me. They seemed to perform more freely and had a more loose air about them. Maybe it was great stage lighting. Maybe it was the gentle breeze the made Alisa Xayalith’s garments flow in the wind. Maybe it was the crowd singing along with the choruses of the popular songs. Maybe it was the act of the crowd throwing flowers onto the stage for Alisa’s birthday. Whatever it was, it reflected in their performance, and they delivered a tremendous set.
INSTAGRAM VIDEOS: CLICK HERE
THOUGHTS: To think that I almost missed out on seeing Future Islands perform at Coachella 2014. If it wasn’t for their lead singer, Sam Herring, convincing me to check them out, I would have missed out on music that I have perched high on my “best of the year” lists. When I found out they were performing at First City Festival, I urged all of my friends who were also attending to check them out. They, like me, were amazed by what they saw and heard. I think part of what makes Future Islands’ live performance so powerful to witness is the emotive stage presence of Mr. Herring. Every movement … every gesture … it all speaks to something, and it’s truly a revelation to witness. I suppose that why most of my shots of the band were of Sam. It really couldn’t be helped. I suppose that I should have bust out a wider angled lens to capture the entire band … hopefully, I’ll get a chance to do that in the future when they get back to Los Angeles for another gig.
This is the “Homepage” for the links to all of the blog entries posted about the acts I was able to catch at First City Festival, August 23 and 24, 2014. Below are links to Instagram video posts, photos and some brief thoughts about each band that I was able to enjoy in beautiful Monterey.
To read my “Love Letter” to First City Festival CLICK HERE.
Saturday, August 23th
- Strangers You Know | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- Speedy Ortiz | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- Miniature Tigers | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- CocoRosie | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- Doe Eye | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- How To Dress Well | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- Tokyo Police Club | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- Mr. Little Jeans | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- Phantogram | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- The Stepkids | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- Beck | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
Sunday, August 24th
- Midi Matilda | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- The Men | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- Lake Street Dive | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- Future Islands | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- Lo-Fang | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- Geographer | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- The Naked And Famous | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- Cults | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
- The National | Instagram Videos | Photos and Review
If Woodkid was the surprise set of my Friday, Future Islands was the surprise set of my Saturday.
Between catching White Lies and Banks, I took a pit stop in the media tent of the festival. While there, I noticed Samuel Herring, lead singer of Future Islands, hanging out after an interview. For some reason, perhaps due to the little sleep I had the two nights before, I went up to Samuel and apologized for missing his band’s set on Friday. Problem was, they were performing later that evening. D’oh!!!! He politely corrected me, and encouraged me to go check them out. I was a bit too embarrassed to show him that I had actually circled their set in my festival booklet, and opted to assure him that I would while asking for a selfie, which he graciously obliged.
As an aside, in those few minutes chatting with Sam Herring, I got the impression that he was one of the most humble and easy going dudes on the planet. Total bonus points in the “cool” column.
When the band took the stage and started performing, I was blown away. I had seen videos of them perform live online, but there’s nothing like watching Sam Herring rock the stage in the flesh. He performs with such a passion, you can’t helped but get hypnotized by him. His facial expressions, body language, even hand gestures all served the purpose to help tell the stories he was singing.
To put it bluntly, I fucking loved it. On record store day, I actually looked for their LP to buy. It was apparently sold out, so I ended up buying their album on cassette instead. It was the second cassette I’ve purchased in the past 15 years (the other being a copy of The Pharcyde’s “Bizarre Ride To Tha Pharcyde”). I’ve played that cassette at least a half a dozen times since, and each time I think about their performance at Coachella.
If you enjoy bands like War On Drugs, Phantogram or St. Vincent, you should check out Future Islands. If you have the opportunity to see them live in a club venue, do it.
7:05. Future Islands (@Future_Islands). I met the lead singer, Samuel T. Herring, earlier in the day and apologized for missing his set yesterday. He reminded me that the band's set was today. Thank god I got to bump into him. Would have been a shame had I missed this set! These guys are great live.