Future Islands + Ear Pwr + Yukon + Gary War + Teeth Mountain at Witchdome, Sacramento

The Witchdome is a basement in downtown Sacramento opened to the friends and strangers of its residents, who were female, but did not cast any hints of wiccan behavior. With a small donation, I did not receive the customary stamp or paper wristband. Instead I joined a small party of white people marked with red forehead dots (Blake’s got a new faith). The power was out, possibly from a neglected bill, but the candle lighting created a spiritualizing ambiance that contrasted with the bombast that would ensue.

Future Islands surprised the hell out of me in the opening slot; absent from the advertised bill, but the surprise made the appearance all the better. The last time I saw Future Islands was in a murky abandoned toy factory in Detroit. Sam, the lead singer, was way gone on booze creating an uneasy atmosphere as they tried to get 10 partially, to absolutely, sober people to dance in the dark with them.

[Future Islands warp into psychedelia]

Future Islands has slimmed its roster down to a core three with Sam handling vocals, William on bass and Gerrit programming the drums and playing synths. The change seems to have strengthened the group, if only made a cross-country tour easier. It is time FI receive the acclaim the rest of Baltimore has bathed in like fat kings. FI opened with the somber ballad “Beach Foam,” a gentle song that gives Sam the space to pelt from his gut to a distant love each night. The man owns this song with his Cocker-esque croon. If I were to offer a new view of this gem, I would liken it to Astral Weeks constructed from synths. Vocally Sam trances out, working in refrains at his discretion.

Announcing they would be performing a new song called “Today,” it seems as though Future Islands is in the midst of a creative stride. “Today” was a simple tune with lyrics that feel like the day after suffocating, sending the mind to that spot that appreciates the warmth of the sun. The band’s next stop is Oakland, where they plan to record “Today” for a 7”.

Ear Pwr brought the Baltimore fashion and sound that typically makes the news. Armed with a briefcase full of buttons and levers that would make the beats warp, tweak and a megaphone, Ear Pwr’s unabashed joy for dancing and do-see-does was not infectious enough to inspire movers and shakers in the basement, but Ear Pwr continued the party of two. They were clearly welcomed, but no one felt like dancing along. Personally, I can do without Ear Pwr. Baltimore’s day-glow youth are starting to wear thin with me. There is only so much Dan Deacon-lite I can stomach before I am puking lasers and calling ex-girlfriends at 3am to see if they want to screw to Cex.

I did pick up a split tour EP with Future Islands and Ear Pwr. I typically skip the Ear Pwr contributions, but FI’s “Nu Autobahn” and Hide & Seek’s “Its So Good (And Gets It Remix)” make it worth the purchase, it also feels good to be a Samaritan and help a band with gas money.

Yukon altered the vibe with its heavy math rock that slipped in and out of powerful vignettes of enormous sound. The basement’s close quarters trapped the heavy sound. I do not follow math rock, thus I was hardly impressed with the virtuosity or whatever. Occasionally, Yukon strolled into a vignette worth perking the ear, but ultimately lulled me in and out of attention.

As I sat on the last two steps of the basement watching Gary War and some girl named Tiff with a voluptuous booty in a red skirt, red top and black Winehouse wig, I could not help but feel left out of the fun drug party. Gary War rolled around on the floor, singing, wailing and screaming into heavy distortion to his psychotic dance beats, while Tiff took another mic out in the audience letting everyone make animal sounds. Her pupils had the glassy onyx of the psychedelic head. With each sound someone made, she smiled a twisted mouth, wincing with pleasure. I watched the faces in the room, trying to decipher the brutally melting from the classically drunk or acceptably stoned; feeling like the new kid in school. The set sounded sloppy and masturbatory, like an electric acid test at an orgy, to a sober mind, but I am sure everyone else got a huge tickle in the G-clef spot.

Teeth Mountain is all drums and reverb, but mostly drums. Minutes in to the set I was desperate for some variation in the drums. Initially the tribal pounding to the noise of distorted cellos, violins and guitars was visceral, but dragged into rehash. Teeth Mountain has the instruments to create without limitation, but I wonder if the band has the skill? Perhaps they obtained some magic doses from whoever was dropping that night that could be saved for a recording session, until then TM is its own enemy for its short-sidedness.