"Sometimes you just gotta blow that s*** away man," Samuel T. Herring, Future Islands' powerhouse vocalist joked to a Sun soaked LouFest crowd Saturday afternoon. As the last notes of "Before the Bridge," a cut from the Baltimore synthpop group's last LP On the Water wafted into the sweat heavy summer air, Herring was blowing some invisible entity out of his hand. With the sheer force he put into puffing out his cheeks, then exhaling, you'd think he was an exorcist trying to cast out a demon.
But that's the intensity the group, particularly Herring approaches all of their material with. During indie song of the year contender "Seasons (Waiting On You)" William Cashion's thick running bass notes created a feeling of a dam bursting fourth; and Herring's "as it breaks" was the first gush of water through the concrete. The song's key line "I've grown tired trying to change for you," affects anyone who's ever lost too much of themselves in another person. And live the emotional relevancy Herring gave the confession was overwhelming.
The Singles lead track was one of several cuts from the 2014 record littering the group's 50 minute set. Gerrit Welmers' tidal synthesizer of "A Song for Our Grandfathers" found Herring looking up to a celestial plateau after each line about "grandfather watching over me." "This song's about burned out tobacco fields and those trying to be free and those that deserve to be," Herring informed the howling, clapping crowd. Whether freedom was ever attained, he never said.
"Light House" considerably picked up the synth pace and offered a shred of life saving hope once imparted on Herring. Though the words "this is not you," and "what you know is better, is brighter" were partially obscured by Herring's black metal shrieking, they still offered inspiration. Sometimes when you're trapped in the shadows all you need is assurance that light is out there somewhere.
Set closer "Spirit" continued the uplifting act. Herring giddily bounced up and down, while the rest of the group gelled into a robotic techno/funk groove. The song's all about finding that aforementioned light inside of yourself and near the end, I spotted a young red-headed child sitting on top of his father's shoulders beaming from ear-to-ear. So as "hokey" a challenge as "sharing" and "baring" the light sounds, when you see the joy of a small child, it's abundantly clear that radiant light exists.
As theatrical as all of the wailing, backwards dancing and pogoing that Herring did was, the most stirring moment came during Singles closer "A Dream of You and Me." Herring begged for peace, but was overcome with violence. He bizarrely contorted across the main stage and pulled at his face like he was trying to rip off a mask. When you're band that thrives on physicality, finding even a shard of peace isn't an easy task.