Show Review: Future Islands @ Caledonia Lounge – 1/28/2012

I somehow always wind up staying in Athens longer than I plan to. Last year, I went up with a crew from the site to cover all the events for AthFest and wound up nursing a hangover a few days past the fest’s last night. More recently, I drove up with a friend to check out three up-and-coming Athens bands who were playing with good friends All Get Out. Grass Giraffes has been getting a ton of buzz around the South after being brought out on the road by Futurebirds for a short tour and ending the year with an opening set to a sold-out crowd at The Buckhead Theatre with Futurebirds & Washed Out. Gift Horse was a group that I was somewhat unfamiliar with other then the times I’ve heard their name tossed around the Athens music community and Velveteen Pink was a group that must have been added to the bill last minute because I had no clue about them. They embodied the spirit of Athens art-rock to the max with projections, keytars, spandex etc…

That all being said, I found myself at a Red Lobster drinking Bloody Mary’s around 4:30 or 5:00 Saturday night and got a call reminding me that Future Islands were playing at Caledonia that night, so plans were made. The kind folks in Future Islands were accommodating enough to put us down on their list at the last minute and thus the night began.

We arrived at Caledonia a bit late and only managed to catch the last bit of Ed Schrader’s Music Beat but it wasn’t exactly my kind of thing. It made complete sense that the guys in Future Islands had brought them out and the crowd seemed to enjoy them, I think I might have still just been a bit hungover at that point…

I didn’t expect Future Islands to take the stage in the manner that they did. If you’ve ever been to Caledonia Lounge then you’re familiar with how close the quarters are. We were posted up at the front of the crowd so that Sarra could get photos and these three guys who I assumed were part of the crowd casually climbed on stage, picked up their instruments and broke into their first tune.

I will say this as sincerely as I can, but Samuel Herring (vocals) has to be one of the most captivating band leaders I’ve ever seen. The way he lurched and swooned around the tiny stage was primal and fluid. All his movements and gestures and facial expressions were not rehearsed but spontaneously brought forth as each song moved into another. All I could imagine is that he must be the long lost offspring of Dan Deacon and Al Capone (however that would work… maybe that makes no sense).

The near sold-out crowd was clearly hungry for action and dead set on sweating out whatever drinks they’d had. Quick to respond to Herring’s movements, they eagerly shouted back the lyrics of favorites like “Tin Man” (You couldn’t possibly know how much you meant to me/You couldn’t honestly look inside my tarot/You couldn’t possibly find it in your heart to forgive me/You are the savage sun and the scarecrow) and “Balance” (It just takes time/Hard work and your time/You can change your life).

While fellow members William Cashion and Gerrit Welmers seemed more than content in their own worlds, Herring was active for almost the entirety of their set, aside from a heartfelt “thank you” to the people of Athens and to tell the crowd a message of good will (“things are going to be okay, i think we’re all worrying way more than we should be. let’s spend our time on something positive”).

There was a sense of comfort and humanity during their set that I haven’t felt at a show in a long time. Especially with this genre of music, it’s easy for shows to blend together, every night another party. Herring and his crew were visibly passionate about what they do and they thrive off of the personal connection they have with their audience (“We live in Baltimore, but we’re really all from North Carolina. We’re heading oversea’s soon and we thought it would be best to bring this thing back to where it really belongs before we do that” – Herring).

They wrapped up their set and followed up with a crowd pleasing encore before making their way off stage to mingle with the folks that hung around. I talked with a friend I ran into at the show and he told me about the last time seeing them open up for Dan Deacon how they nearly stole the show and solidified their fan base in Athens.        I was left with the impression that these guys really are genuinely happy with what they’re doing. They’ve been touring around the states for six years now and I couldn’t imagine them more at home than in front of the packed out crowd at small clubs like Caledonia. They’re going to be on the road with ESMB for only 4 more days before they head over to Europe for a months straight of shows in France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Spain and more before returning to the States for some time off. If you have the chance to see them before they jump the puddle, do yourself the favor.

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Words: Sean Pritchard + Photos: Sarra Sedghi