Live Review: Islands @ Black Cat, May 22

My first live Islands experience took place in Brooklyn. It was a rainy spring afternoon, and the band and as many people as could fit into Fix were spending some up-close-and-personal quality time together. The band looked a little grumpy, but played splendidly. The second time, I was with a few hundred additional people, watching Islands don their whites and play at the Black Cat. That, too, was a pretty darned good show. But those shows were both years ago. How would my third Islands show be, what with the evidently abrupt departure of founding member J’Aime and all.

Silly, silly Megan. There was no need to fret. I had a great time, as did the rest of the sardine-can normally known as the Black Cat. The band made an interesting sartorial choice, everyone in black, black, and more black, apart from Nick’s white tank top under a black hoodie. It made sense: new album, new look, new color.

What wasn’t new was the band’s ability to fill the room with large helpings of outstanding oddballness, scintillating silliness, and quixotic quirkiness. The older songs get more cheers than did songs from new release Arm’s Way, but each song was played beautifully, and the crowd loved it all. I think I even caught some smiles coming from the stage, as well. Bathed in red light (which, sadly, didn't make for great photos), the band played and played, a shining example of intensity, radness, and discipline.

Highlights for me, if I had to pick, were the 80s-esque, supremely dance-worthy “Creeper,” instrumentally ambitious “The Arm,” “Pieces of You,” “Life in Jail” (resplendent with live chains!), and my likely favorite Islands song of all time, “I Feel Evil Creeping In.” Each song was bathed in the eccentricity Islands fans have come to know and love, and yet every song also sounded technically perfect. That’s the thing about Islands, the songs are demonstrations of controlled chaos. They might sound like little train wrecks, but rest assured that Nick Thorburn and co. know exactly what they’re doing. And I’m glad they do, because Islands is definitely one of the best live bands around these days.

[photo by Megan Petty]


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