I’m often critical of Sioux Falls.
Although I admittedly spend very little time there these days, it’s always struck me as a bland suburbia with no emotional weight, grit or real identity. It is the outlet mall of small cities — a collection of brand names signifying nothing.
Is that unfair?
I can’t say with any certainty. I simply do not spend enough time exploring its crevices for signs of the kind of life that excites me.
But I will say this, the residents of Sioux Falls gave Future Islands and the Operators the kind of enthusiastic welcome that makes you proud to be associated with the city’s fandom.
I don’t go to shows in Sioux Falls on a regular basis, but I’ve been told that Sioux Falls crowds have been going the extra mile to make bands feel at home — the recent Jason Isbell concert was an example of that, I was informed.
I just know that I saw it firsthand Monday at the very cool and stylish Icon Lounge.
The Operators are a very new band that most prominently features Dan Boeckner of bands such as Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs and Divine Fits. They have a synth-heavy new wave sound that tends to tickle my funny bone in a wonderful way.
The band informed the crowd early on that they were having a rough day, in part because of some equipment failures.
As they soldiered into their set, the Operators were clearly taken aback by the gusto of the crowd, which was cheering them on as if they were the main act. It was a warm and impressive display, and the band ended their set with a thank you to the crowd for turning their day around.
“This is just what we needed,” keyboardist — and, according to one press report, “enigmatic Macedonian electronics whiz” — Devojka said.
Now let’s rewind.
Shortly after arriving at the venue, I noticed the Future Islands lead singer, Samuel T. Herring, walking among the crowd.
Through performances and interviews, I had the impression that Sam is a very nice, sincere guy who appreciates his fans. Without really thinking, I called out his name and he politely began to speak with me about the tour, Baltimore and our shared love of film director Matthew Porterfield. I’ve become a huge fan of Sam during the last six months, and it was a genuine pleasure to have a relaxed, five-minute conversation with him.
I first remember hearing Future Islands on the “Sound Opinions” podcast perhaps a year or so ago.
“The Great Fire” became a favorite song of mine (which Future Islands did play in Sioux Falls!).
When “Seasons (Waiting On You)” was released in advance of the album “Singles,” I went from being a casual Future Islands fan to a devoted one.
The “Late Show with David Letterman” performance sealed it.
Sam brought everything you see in that clip and more to Sioux Falls Monday.
His intense, theatrical performance places him among the best front men (or women) I’ve ever witnessed and made the concert one for the history books.
I’ve heard people (including a gentleman at the Icon Lounge) describe Sam’s dancing as terrible. I disagree. I find it unique, physical, emotional and really endearing. Like David Letterman said after the Future Islands performance: “I’ll take all of that you’ve got.”
This is the rather shoddy cell phone video I got of the song “Balance” at Monday’s show. (I was pretending to not be filming, because I didn’t want to be one of those guys). It’s got a lot of Sam’s trademark moves for your enjoyment.
I will note here that a strange thing happened prior to the show.
I was standing at the front of the venue after the Operators and noticed some people were giving me strange looks. I did my best to ignore it.
However, one of them approached me and asked, “Are you the lead singer of Future Islands? We were just looking at a picture of him, and you look like him.”
“Are you lying to me? Are you maybe his brother then?”
“I don’t have any Herring blood in me that I’m aware of.”
“So you’re not going to climb out of the crowd and onto the stage?”
“No, that’s not among my plans for the evening.”
The stranger — Ezra, I later learned — eventually accepted my denial, and we had a nice conversation about our favorite bands.
As far as the issue at hand, I happen to think Sam is a handsome fellow and maybe I can see myself passing as his brother. However, I don’t quite understand how I could be in the least bit confused with the man himself.
It’s not me.
I know that’s hard to believe.
But I’m telling the truth.