It’s common for performers to try and connect themselves to the audience of whatever city they’re in on any given night — “Hello Cleveland!” — but it felt like a deeper level of sincerity when singer Samuel T. Herring took the stage with Future Islands at Fun Fun Fun Fest Sunday night and told the Austin crowd, “I feel like we’ve gone places together.”
Indeed. As Herring explained later, when the band first visited Austin in the summer of 2008, they played to almost no one at a nightclub and a skate park. “There was like 25 people between the two shows,” he recalled. But then Fun Fun Fun booked the band for an early-afternoon slot on the main stage in 2011, and then South by Southwest awarded the group its coveted Grulke Prize for rising-star acts after a big week in March 2014. No surprise, then, to see a huge throng pack the Blue Stage for what was another Future Islands milepost occasion, as it turned out.
Near the end of the band’s 11-song set, Herring revealed that Fun Fun Fun would be “our last show in the U.S. for a long time.” He sounded relieved at the prospect of taking a break from touring after two whirlwind years that saw the Baltimore synth-pop quartet progress from promising up-and-comers to a firmly established national act. Herring expressed eagerness to finally work on new material with keyboardist Gerrit Welmers and bassist William Cashion (supplemented on tour by drummer Michael Lowry).
It felt like these special circumstances drove Future Islands to an especially energized performance. Granted, Herring’s captivating stage presence is his trademark at every show, but on this night his endless kinetic flow of full-body twists, jerks, hops and thrusts seemed to be kicked up a notch as he led the band through favorites from last year’s “Singles” album such as “Light House” and “Seasons (Waiting on You),” as well as older tunes including “Balance” and “Tin Man.”
Herring urged everyone to dance cathartically on the final number, “Vireo’s Eye” from the band’s 2010 album “In Evening Air.” Nearly everyone obliged, drawn in by the frenetic, hypnotic pull of the music and Herring’s irrepressible spirit. Future Islands has earned the break, and they’ll be welcomed back whenever they return, ready to go places together again.