It's a very cold February night in Baltimore and Future Islands frontman Sam Herring is shuffling across the Floristree stage like a cranked-up Elvis impersonator. Exuding memory-haunted menace, he stalks around as if he were hunting prey, pauses, finds a fan's eyes and stares into them, stopping mid-dance move. Dozens of diehard fans in the front become one swaying, sweaty clump of pumping fists and pogo-ing legs with the occasional crowd surfer poking out. Not quite a mosh pit - more like the moves and grooves of a rave dancing its pain away, mindfully concentrated. Most of the people in the front of this legendary (and quasi-legal) DIY performance space were raised on patron saint of B'more spaz-out, Dan Deacon, and his one, simple rule for going nuts at a show: Jump up and down, not side to side, so nobody falls down and gets fucking hurt.
"It was bonkers," Herring proudly brays the next day. It's early in the afternoon and Future Islands are gathered in their rehearsal space, a tiny room in the basement of Baltimore's Current Space Gallery. Last night was the group's sixth time playing Floristree since 2007, though they've been there plenty more times if you count side-project gigs and, as Herring fondly recalls, watching Ravens football games with friends. "There's a spirit at Floristree," Herring says. "It's a living space. Like, this is also somebody's home."
Here in Baltimore, Future Islands are local heroes, with a wider, more populist appeal than they have elsewhere, which means plenty of people at Floristree were there for the first time after encountering the band at, say, 2012's Virgin Free Fest or the city's more conventional rock clubs. But that night was an important moment for the band - bringing old and new fans into (or back to) a personally special space just before the release of what will certainly be their most high-profile record to date.