Future Islands at 4AD Showcase. Photo: Joy Shi
After just three days, the last remaining drop of faith I’d had in SXSW had dripped out of me. Every day, absurd door policies and tired, snaking lines that “important people” inexplicably breezed right through squeezed what little patience I had left for the weeklong, corporate-sponsored festival. Then, I saw Future Islands last night at Cheer Up Charlie’s and everything changed.
This is the thing about Samuel T. Herring’s voice: the distance between its median and extreme is a microscopic nanometer. His voice dips down into an unparalleled, feral growl and bobs back up, then drops back below without interruption like a buoy bobbing in the ocean.
Last night at 4AD’s official showcase, the crowd went wild for that dip. Though Future Islands have been around for years, their recent signing with 4AD - who hosted the showcase - and buzzy performance on Letterman have drawn swarms of new fans to the band’s allegiance, making this their first SXSW showing and a public reckoning of sorts. Under Herring’s iron-fisted command, the band unleashed a blazing set and lit the punk-rock fuse lying dormant in fans, evidenced by sporadic crowdsurfers optimistically launching themselves atop a neutralized throng that hardly knew what to do with them.
"We fucking needed this. This is why we fucking do this. Thank you guys, and thank you 4AD," said Herring, who embodied the force of a thousand slingshots gone off at once. Until that moment, I’d lost what precious faith I’d had initially in SXSW, and it was this evening and this moment that restored it, almost immediately. For all the blatant corporate tidings the festival panders each year, it nonetheless offers a space for a very deserving band like Future Islands to get their long overdue notice - even if that notice is piggybacking off attention initially drawn in by big players like Gaga, Coldplay, Kanye, and Jay-Z.
Future Islands’ set was preceded by Tampa rock outfit Merchandise, fronted by the unforgettable, exuberant Carson Cox, another example of the upside of discovery at SXSW. Further highlights from Day Two included UK’s Eagulls at Fader Fort, Cherub, Echosmith, Theophilus London, and Jagwar Ma. Check out our photo highlights of the day below, and visit our Facebook for the full SXSW gallery.
Eagulls and Theophilus London at Fader Fort Presented By Converse. Photo by Joy Shi
Echosmith at Live Nation Labs/Mophie Hangar. Photo by Joy Shi
Jagwar Ma at Redbull Sound Select Showcase. Photo by Joy Shi
Merchandise at 4AD Showcase. Photo by Joy Shi