By the time you read this, Death By Audio will be gone. The Brooklyn venue, a mainstay in the borough’s vibrant DIY music scene, shuttered its doors last week, but not before putting on a weeklong marathon of shows featuring some of the artists who got their start in the venue before moving on to bigger things. Of those artists, few have risen to the heights that Future Islands have reached over the past year. Their new album Singles found the band embracing a sweeter side of their emotionally sweeping synth-pop, and a stunning performance on Letterman turned the band into a viral sensation. As a result, there was a bittersweet tone to their final performance at the venue, as the sadness of DBA’s impending closure was punctured by the sheer glee of seeing one of their defining acts just when they’ve hit it big.
Fans who braved the bitter cold and the long line down South 2nd Street were greeted with an interactive, avant-garde jam led by Man Man collaborator Adam Schatz before DJ Dog Dick took the stage. The erstwhile DJ did his best to keep the crowd engaged, but the crowd remain dispersed, exploring the various art installations placed in the venue for its final days. Things finally coalesced when the minimalist soul trio The Immaculates announced their presence. Singer Jay Heiselmann was led through the packed house in a James Brown-style cape, which he then tossed off before launching into a tight, thrilling set of vintage soul. Backed only by a rhythm section, Heiselmann let his voice do the heavy lifting, and the crowd was loving it. For the band’s final song, Heiselmann grabbed a guitar as the band were joined by Les Savy Fav’s Tim Harrington for a shambolic rendition of “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down,” LCD Soundsystem’s lament for gentrified New York.
The tension became palatable as fans anxiously awaited Future Islands to hit the stage, but once they launched into their set with “Back In The Tall Grass,” they did not disappoint. Even as their crowds and stages have gotten bigger, the band still feel right at home playing in what is essentially someone’s living room, and singer Samuel T. Herring remains a captivating frontman no matter what room he’s in. His joy became infectious as he jumped and slid around the stage during “Before The Bridge,” and the dance moves he showed the world on Letterman were present throughout. Still, nothing could prepare me for the explosion of cheers and flailing limbs as the band pulled out old favorites “Tin Man” and “Vireo’s Eye” for fans who probably remembered hearing those songs for the first time at Death By Audio years before. By the time they finished, the sweaty, exhausted audience was still asking for one more song, hoping that this night didn’t have to be the last one like it. Still, while Death By Audio may be gone, the freewheeling, chaotic spirit embodied by that place and others like it will keep itself alive in Future Islands.
– Kevin Korber