LIVE REVIEW: Ed Schrader’s Music Beat / Future Islands @ Bowery Ballroom

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The word of the night? Engaging. The instrument behind this captivation? Voice.

The Ballroom crowds always linger in the downstairs bar area throughout the opening acts. Such was the case for Guardian Angel, who filled in for Lonnie Walker in a last minute switch. But when Ed Schrader’s Music Beat took the stage people must have been intrigued by the rolling drums that shook the Sierra Nevada in their plastic cups. They flocked to the front of the floor with palpable excitement.

Ed Schrader was just a guy with a drum, until he joined forces with Devin Rice in 2009 and created the occasionally minimalist, almost animalistic, mostly energizing “Music Beat”. Their stage presence was forceful, but accessible. Ed Schrader stood in front of a floor tom with a t-shirt draped over the top, and Rice still with a bass in his hands. Schrader called for the lights to be turned off after making a few jokes. He stepped on a pedal that lit his drum from within, casting his upper body in a spooky yellow light, and making Rice just barely visible.

They started with a heavier punk sound – harsh drum beats, quick, steady plucks on the bass, and repetitive nasal vocals – before smoothly transitioning into softer, more focused melodies. Ed Schrader has a unique, lulling voice. Up on the stage with his shirt torn off and the light of his drumbeats bouncing off his face he appeared like a mystical Ian Curtis. One who makes a lot of jokes.

Future Islands

Future Islands, originally part of the Wham City scene (a group of artists who collaborate, or not, to make performance pieces, music, festivals, books, etc), became one of the most popular, influential synth bands around with their 2011 album On the Water. They’re currently on tour to promote their newest album (coming out March 2014), Singles. As fun as their recorded music is, seeing them live is the real pleasure.

Before Future Islands, when much of the band was part of Art Lord, they were all about theatricality. That charisma has carried over, infused with what can only be described as raw emotion, into a whirlwind of truly danceable tunes.

Samuel Herring has an incredible voice. It’s belting, cathartic, and registers as almost inhuman. The combination of this powerful tone and lyrics that center around anger and heartbreak can be a bit overwhelming. It rides the line between confessional and personal. I wonder how much confession is too much? Though the band is mesmerizing, the crowd may not always be able to enter this inviolate space.

The energy level of the band is out of this world. Herring is constantly dancing, twisting, and contorting himself around the microphone, making it nearly impossible to look away from him. Other band members are so still and expressionless that there’s somehow a balanced atmosphere. The keyboard builds a great sense of atmosphere and the beat is subtler than most dance music, but still manages to work its way into the body. Usually crowds are split between dancers and the too serious or too shy. But everyone seemed to brought together in the spirit of letting loose at the sound of Herring’s voice.

Check out Ed Schrader’s Music Beat’s album Jazz Mind and look out for Future Island’s Singles this March.