2014 was yet another amazing year for live music in Portland. From rad house shows, to multiple national acts coming through town literally every night, to the absurdly festival-filled summer; we did not want for live music in PDX this year. That wealth of goodness, combined with the fact that I saw at least 2-3 shows each week this year makes picking a favorite rather difficult, but one clearly stands above the rest for me: Operators and Future Islands at the Doug Fir Lounge in August.
The show was momentous for several reasons; with the stars aligning in ways that made this Pitchfork-curated MusicFest NW late night show one for the ages. The show sold out pretty much immediately, which was no surprise considering the wave of momentum Future Islands rode throughout 2014 (and continues to do so into the new year) on the strength of their excellent fourth album Singles. The record was the North Carolina band’s first for label 4AD and featured an intriguing expansion of the band’s signature, wonderfully unique sound.
Adding about 40 gallons of fuel to the Future Islands fire was their typically rapturous performance of “Seasons (Waiting On You)” on David Letterman’s show. Leadman Samuel Herring’s dance-like-no-one-is-watching moves caught the host’s eye (and seemingly blew his mind), became a part of the next two night’s monologues and brought the band an explosion of exposure, with the clip garnering millions of views on YouTube.
The maniac search for tickets only increased when the incredibly prolific Dan Boeckner’s new project Operators was added to the bill. Boeckner résumé is so consistently good it’s ridiculous: Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, Sunset Rubdown and Divine Fits were/are all excellent groups with equally excellent records to their credit, so anticipation for Operators was beyond high.
Operators is Boeckner’s most synth-heavy project to date and creates a sound that I described in my manically written notes from that night as “DOOM DISCO!!”, a wildly scribbled depiction which remains fitting. Boeckner and Co. proved a perfect way to begin the evening, as their sex and paranoia-drenched songs had the Doug Fir gyrating and grooving in incredibly humid and sweaty unison. Their set was something to behold, and I’d never seen the Doug Fir turn into such a rabid dance party so quickly. I turned around once while catching my breath in between songs to see Boeckner’s partner in Divine Fits and Spoon frontman Britt Daniel look to his companion and simply say “Wow.”
Any other night, such a set would have left Operators in danger of outshining the headliners, but Future Islands soon laid to rest any such worries. To say that the air was thick with humidity and sweat by the time Future Islands took the stage would be like saying it rains a little in Portland; it would be a woeful understatement. As you can see from the excellent clips, there was literally a fog hovering over the audience, and everyone was drenched pretty instantly. Both Britt Daniels and Stephen Malkmus shuffled about with sweaty, pleased grins plastered on their faces. The Haim sisters sauntered by looking happily dazed, coated in a thin layer of Ashley-Judd-in-A Time To Kill-esque sweat (At least to my mind that’s how they appeared, by now the free Jim Beam and ridiculous dance music were doing a tap-dance on my psyche and perception).
Future Islands had already played a wonderful set at the festival during the day, but looked beyond fresh as they tore through an ecstatic, well-curated set that equally highlighted Singles and the band’s magnificent earlier work. For his part, Herring busted out untold numbers of dance moves, ripped his shirt in half, pounded his chest so hard you could hear it in his mic and lost about 4 pounds of sweat. And that was just during “Seasons”.
Fortunately Pitchfork had cameras there to capture the whole thing, so do yourself a favor; clear some dancing space, turn the thermostat way up and relive this amazing night in August via the provided clips. It’s rare a rock show, or any live art, reaches this level of Dionysian revelry. A true celebration of life and what it means to be alive.
Future Islands 2015 Tour Dates:
January 6 – Boston, MA @ Royale
January 7 – Boston, MA @ Royale SOLD OUT
January 8 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5
January 9 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5 SOLD OUT
January 10 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer SOLD OUT
January 11 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
January 24 – Singapore @ Laneway Festival
January 26 – Auckland, NZ @ Laneway Festival
January 31 – Brisbane, AU @ Laneway Festival
February 1 – Sydney, AU @ Laneway Festival
February 6 – Adelaide, AU @ Laneway Festival
February 7 – Melbourne, AU @ Laneway Festival
February 8 – Perth, AU @ Laneway Festival
February 10 – Honolulu, HI @ The Republik
February 21 – St Petersburg, FL @ Coastline Festival
February 22 – Pompano Beach, FL @ Coastline Festival
February 26 – Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
February 28 – Mexico, DF @ Festival Nrmal
March 13 – Tempe, AZ @ Pot Of Gold Music Festival
Operators 2015 Tour Dates:
1/5 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right
1/6 – Boston, MA @ Royale w/ Future Islands
1/7 – Boston, MA @ Royale w/ Future Islands
1/8 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5 w/ Future Islands
1/9 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5 w/ Future Islands
1/10 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer w/ Future Islands
1/11 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer w/ Future Islands
1/12 – Washington, DC @ DC9
1/14 – Chicago, IL @ Schuba’s – Tomorrow Never Knows Festival
1/29 – Winnipeg, MB @ West End Cultural Centre
1/30 – Vancouver, BC @ The Fox
1/31 – Vancouver, BC @ The Fox
2/4 – Montreal, QC @ Corona Theatre w/ The New Pornographers
2/5 – Toronto, ON @ The Danforth Music Hall w/ The New Pornographers
2/6 – London, ON @ London Music Hall w/ The New Pornographers
2/7 – Guelph, ON @ Hillside Inside w/ The New Pornographers
2/8 – Hamilton, ON @ Molson Canadian Studio w/ The New Pornographers
2/10 – Ithaca, NY @ State Theatre w/ The New Pornographers
2/11 – Northampton, MA @ Calvin Theatre w/ The New Pornographers
2/12 – Baltimore, MD @ The Ram’s Head Live w/ The New Pornographers
2/13 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr Small’s w/ The New Pornographers
2/14 – Richmond, VA @ The National w/ The New Pornographers
2/15 – Saxapahaw, NC @ The Haw River Ballroom w/ The New Pornographers