CONCERT RECAP: Future Islands, Gardens & Villa, Vox Mod @ Neumos, Seattle 9/8/12

Seattle artist Vox Mod, a.k.a. Scot Porter, started off a multi-faceted evening of music at Capitol Hill’s Neumos. Despite the small early crowd for a Saturday, he wore a huge grin and launched into his set, headbanging and swaying. The crowd grew exponentially as Porter’s music drew them to the dance floor, engaging them with frenetic beats and supercharged bass, strong enough to make anyone feel like they were having an inner chest massage.

Next, there was Santa Barbara’s Gardens and Villa, who shifted vibes frequently, running the gamut from Grizzly-Bear-esque harmonies, to funky dance numbers, and driving bass lines. They ranged from electronic to PNW folk, successfully holding the crowd’s attention. Their eclectic instrumentation included a duo of flutes, which the singer/flutist occasionally plucked from a fringed quiver on his back. The set concluded with a single sustained reverb tone from the bass, left propped up on an amp in the middle of the stage. Each opener was having a great time, and seemed equally excited to see Future Islands as the crowd.

Future Islands’ live show never ceases to amaze its audiences. Hailing from Greenville, North Carolina, the three-piece delivers a captivating blend of synth-pop and theatrical songwriting. Singer Samuel Herring commands the stage like a boxer in his ring, dancing around on tiptoes and throwing punches to imaginary foes. He uses evocative gestures and expressions, from the most delicate kneeling pleas to territorial, animalistic chest pounding. Gerrit Welmers and William Cashion handle the keyboard/programs and bass/guitar, respectively, enhancing Herring’s performance with their stoic concentration.

The shining track of the night was undoubtedly “Close to None,” from the recent full length On the Water. The stage grew dark, Herring took a moment to stretch his back, and the instruments were still. The crowd raised a roaring applause of cat calls and whistles. As the noise died down, the faintest synth tone could be heard. It rose slowly, growing into a reverberating drone that filled the room. All of the sudden, a snare popped in, and a strobe light fluttered on. The bass grumbled and the beat grew, and Herring belted out the lyrics with a charming swagger. It’s a gorgeous track on the record, but it’s truly a joy to see live, emerging from the dark into a colorful, bouncing dance number. The songs’ theatricality and Herring’s interactions with the crowd make this band a must-see live.